The Petrossian Family – The First Sellers of Black Caviar in Europe and America

In a quarter from the entrance to the Central Park, on the corner of the 58th Street and the 7th Avenue, in the historical building Alwyn Court is situated one of the most fashionable restaurants of New York, Petrossian.

The 12-story residential house was built in the 16th-century Gothic and Renaissance style prominent in contemporary France by architectural bureau Harde & Short in 1909. It would be difficult to find a better place for an expensive restaurant in New York.

The restaurant is run by the Petrossian family. It offers French dishes with an accent on fish dishes: lobsters, red crabs, salmon, sardines, oyster, and smoked sturgeon. The restaurant also serves foie gras, as well as famous French cheeses. However, the main delicacy is black caviar, which is included in many dishes. There are in total 16 kinds of black caviar served in the restaurant. Why, you may ask? That’s because the Petrossian family were the first to introduce black caviar in France, Western Europe, and America.

“My father was the one who introduced Russian caviar in France,” says Armen. His father Mikael Petrossian along with his brother Melkum had moved to France from Russia in 1920. One year after their settlement in Paris, Petrossians met César Ritz, the owner of the famous Parisian hotel Ritz. Initially, Ritz refused to participate in the caviar business and even discouraged the brothers from it.

“Ritz considered the idea completely unpromising, calling caviar an excessively exotic product,” says Petrossian, “Though as a friend, he promised to take some caviar for selling”. With some help from Ritz, the brothers began their successful journey.

In 1940, Mikael Petrossian managed to win the heart of Irina, the daughter of El Mailov, the owner of the company “Lazar Mailov and Sons”, which was one of the largest manufacturers of caviar in Russia. The successful cooperation allowed the brothers to expand their business. By the early 1950s, their company became nearly a monopolist in the Western European black caviar market. They also sold salmon and Far Eastern crabs.

By 1980, the Petrossian company had been grown into a large corporation. The son of Mikael, Armen Petrossian, graduated the faculty of history at Sorbonne and started his career in his father’s company as a laborer in 1971. Shortly, he would build his first own factory of fish products on the outskirts of Paris. “I have worked my way up from the bottom: I used to be a janitor, a carrier, and a seller”, recalls Armen Petrossian.

Now, sales of black caviar constitute 35% of the company’s revenue. The Petrossian family reigns over caviar market. Having a 25% share of the world market, they become the largest supplier of caviar in France and the US. Recently, Armen Petrossian opened a large facility for breeding sturgeons and manufacturing black caviar in Sacramento, California to supply the US buyers of black caviar.

Apart from New York, Petrossian owns restaurants in Hollywood and Las Vegas. The latter is housed by the fashionable casino Bellagio, which used to be owned by Kirk Kerkorian.

Now, the company awaits the third generation of its owners. Currently, it is headed by Alexander Petrossian, son of Armen Petrossian. In the meantime, Armen teaches his grandson the delicacies of the caviar business.

“My father was a big philosopher and a believer. I inherited his philosophy. He thought that an idea plays a big role in his business. I base my philosophy on an Armenian foundation, which implies a priority of certain concepts. I inherited all this from my Armenian roots, which for me means to be generous, keep my word, trust people, and not lose my identity.

All these features are a part of the collective Armenian conscience. And today, when you meet and communicate with big Armenian entrepreneurs, you see that they (in most part) aren’t ready to walk over corpses and keep their word. Most Armenians keep their word regardless of their field of activity. They value their reputation. People are proud that they are Armenian, pride their families and everything connected to them. They would never want to disgrace them”, says Armen Petrossian.

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