I love everything to do with art, says Zarmig Ohannes Haladjian, visiting chef at the Novotel Hotel in Delhi’s Aerocity. A multi-faceted woman, she has not only taken Lebanese and Armenian cuisine to the world, but has also established herself as a TV personality with plenty of advice on cooking and etiquette to offer Middle Eastern viewers.
She has written 24 books so far, runs a chain of restaurants in Doha, and is the founder of the Armenian Culinary Association. If that wasn’t enough, she is now also a professional artist.
“Cuisine is an art but it is cleaned away after every meal. I wanted to create something that is permanent so I took to painting,” explains the certified Master Chef and television celebrity, whose only artistic tools are her fingers.
Zarmig was born into a modest Armenian family and was brought up in Lebanon, imbibing the roots of both cultures. She loved cooking even as a child, and was influenced by her mother’s gracious hospitality: “Even if a guest arrived unexpectedly, there was always extra food and our home was always warm and welcoming.”
She graduated from Al Kafaat University in Lebanon with a Bachelor’s degree in hospitality, and an associate diploma in science. She then headed to Liverpool University for a Master’s in business management and is now wrapping up another Master’s degree in public health management from UK’s Roehampton University through online courses. Her first job was as an executive chef at the US Embassy in Lebanon, after which she joined a five-star hotel as a kitchen artist chef.
Success came quickly to her, and several awards followed. She began appearing on TV in 2001, and since then has been seen on many network channels and in various countries, the longest running of which is a cooking show she hosts on Qatar TV and an etiquette show on Al Jazeera.
Zarmig also began setting up her own eateries in Beirut, and became an ambassador for Armenian cuisine abroad. Along the way, she worked as a food consultant, food safety lecturer, a diabetic consultant, and a cooking show judge. She also wrote 24 books on cooking and Armenian cuisine.
Eight years ago, she moved to Doha, Qatar, and her career touched a new high. She set up Mamig, a Lebanese-Armenian restaurant at Katara Cultural Village, which serves 3000 customers a day with a staff of 150. She was thrice awarded Qatar Chef of the year in 2014, 2016 and 2017, Queen of Armenian Cuisine 2015, Qatar Woman of the Year 2016 and Best Armenian Entrepreneur Worldwide.
With homes in Lebanon, Armenia, US and Qatar, Zarmig has made two trips to India this year, the first to judge an event and the second to host a Lebanese Armenian food festival at Novotel in late November. For the festival, she brought along special ingredients from her homeland.
“Armenian food includes a variety of green leaves because we have a lot of sun in our country. We also use a lot of pomegranates, basil, oregano and cheese made with sheep milk and buffalo milk,” informs the svelte, attractive chef, while describing the menu she has designed.
Fond of reading biographies and books on philosophy, Zarmig says she loves meeting Indians. “They appreciate tradition.” With a career in upholding culture and tradition herself, it’s a trait that gets her thumbs up.