Chef Haig Hagopian
Culture, the Art of Cooking, Food Science, and Social Gatherings: A Daily Necessity?
Ever since my younger years, I have had a passion for exploring various gourmet cuisines. My journey started when I obtained a four-year cooking and hospitality degree in Cyprus that was also associated with practical experience in the hospitality sector. This was followed by a two-year advanced degree in San Francisco.
Upon my return home, it seemed that destiny landed me at the Armenian Patriarchate where I was entrusted with the task of reorganizing the dwindling food and beverages operation for clergy, seminarians, pilgrims, and tourists. It was a challenge that was well worth the effort, as this period also helped me gain considerable experience in the local hospitality market. Private catering along with restaurant consultation are also part of my acquired skills.
Three years ago, I was invited to Chartres, France, for a food exhibition organized by the French Chefs’ Association, where I had to introduce an authentic Armenian dish. Թոփիկ (topig), a complex vegetarian roulade that is very popular during Christmas and Easter, was my choice: pine nuts, onions, and currants in a tahini sauce are served in a wrap made of garbanzo beans and drizzled with lemon juice. During the preparation process, I was struck by the hard-to-ignore artistic capabilities and perfectionism of two young men. Being an instructor at the Notre Dame Academy and an accredited food critic, I could clearly see the gap between international students and our own students at home when it comes to passionate cooking.
I have participated as an Armenian culinary ambassador in several international events and competitions to present our cuisine to the outside world.
I believe that our Ministry of Education should invest more in the hospitality sector to support the people who have chosen this very refined career. In a country where tourism provides a key income, we need optimal results. The preservation of our proud and rich Palestinian cuisine, with its vast variety of ingredients, requires more proactive and systematic investment in the future generation. Unfortunately, the art of cooking in this country does not receive the respect it deserves.