Over the last years, UNESCO has greatly contributed to the preservation of ancient monuments in the territory of historical and modern Armenia. However, UNESCO sometimes makes strange and unexplainable decisions.
In particular, we mean the recent inclusion of dolma into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Azerbaijan. Why not include dolma in the list of Armenia and maybe even Turkey as well, since dolma is an exceptionally popular dish in both of the countries? Not to mention that Azerbaijan per se doesn’t have as long of a history of culinary like the Armenians, whose ancestors, as an example, learned to grow grapes and make wine from it about 6,000 years ago.
But we shouldn’t focus too much on the decisions of UNESCO. And it seems that young cooks from Armenia don’t care about them either as they have lately caused a furor in India, a country which is renowned for its unique and exquisite approach towards their cuisine. After all, the internationally renowned star of Michelin and chef John Wood loved precisely the Armenian tolma (dolma is called “dolma” and “tolma” in Armenia) and Armenian mulberry vodka! This was told by the head of the Armenian delegation to India Arayik Amzayan.
The Armenian delegation headed by Amzayan and the executive director of a public organization “Development and Preservation of the Traditions of Armenian Cuisine” Arbi Karakhani participated in the international Olympiad of young cooks, Young Chef 2018, in India between 28 January and 2 February. Armenia placed fifth in the competition. Cooks from 50 countries took part in the Young Chef 2018.
“He [John Wood] approached our pavilion, tried tolma, and loved it. We also offered him to taste the mulberry vodka we brought from Armenia. His mimics clearly showed us that the vodka was to his taste,” recounts Amzayan and adds that Wood asked the delegation to send him several bottles of Armenian vodka later.
Not only Wood but also those who managed to taste the Armenian dishes liked the combination of tolma and vodka.
Each delegation was to showcase their national dish at the opening of the competition. Amzayan remarks that the team hasn’t been feeling anxious at all, as it often is before competitions. Each of the team members was able to work together with complete understanding.
“Many have asked me how I managed to keep calm. I answered that I just do my beloved job, which I am engaged in constantly,” says Amzayan.
Representatives of India and Malaysia placed first and second respectively, while the third and fourth places were taken by teams from Scotland and Hong Kong. Amzayan remarks that after the awards ceremony, representatives of many countries sincerely congratulated the Armenian team.
“We completely agree with the decision of the jury, which has been fair and unbiased. Those participants truly deserved their places,” says Amzayan.
The opening ceremony was held in Delhi, while the first tour took place in the town of Puna. The organizers provided the teams with 30-40 ingredients, mostly spices. Armenian cooks made Florentine eggs with spinach and soufflé as dessert for the first tour.
For the second tour in Kolkata, the Armenian cooks cooked noodles from buckwheat flour with sauce as a primary dish. As breakfast, the team cooked a soup with tofu, and as dessert, the cooks presented a pineapple and applesauce. For the last third tour, the Armenian cooks prepared a chicken with potato garnish, and dessert made from the dough for “shu” cakes.
Chairman of “Development and Preservation of the Traditions of Armenian Cuisine” Sedrak Mamulyan considers the participation of Armenian cooks in similar international competitions crucial for the development of the Armenian cuisine.
“The Olympiad is a great platform that allows young cooks to put their skills on display. Presenting young cooks with opportunities to communicate and exchange their experience is of great importance to us. The cuisine is an international language that doesn’t have any place for miscommunication and disagreement,” says Mamulyan.
In the scope of the Olympiad, the Armenian delegation signed a cooperation agreement with the culinary college of India, which implies student & lecturer, as well as experience exchanges.