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With many restaurant customers becoming more adventurous in Los Angeles due to pop-ups and other new chef driven concepts pushing the envelope, more established restaurants – often with new chefs- are now refining their menus to appeal to these more adventuresome consumers. One such restaurant, Cliff’s Edge at the end of 2012 recently added Chef Vartan Abgaryan to their kitchen. Chef Abgaryan with Cliff’s Edge’s owners’ encouragement is now putting some very distinctive items on its menu (see related story). In his cooking on this menu, Abgaryan’s upbringing and training are reflected in his food which includes seasonally fresh ingredients and things that taste good to him that Vartan believes his patrons will enjoy too.
In 1991 Abgaryan’s entire family moved from Armenian to North Hollywood shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union when Abgaryan was nine years of age. Growing up in an Armenian household in Southern California, Vartan was exposed not only to his family’s cooking but also to the wide variety of cuisine in this region. Thus things that taste good to this chef include flavors from his ancestry and his environment as well as his later training at Cordon Bleu in Vegas and the other restaurants he’s worked in as line, sous and executive chefs including Andre’s and Lutece in Vegas, the late Red Pearl Kitchen, A Restaurant in Newport Beach, and his last prior stop Public Kitchen & Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
According to Vartan, Armenian food due to a history of dislocation is diluted. His family originally left Armenia due to the Turkish genocide before returning to Armenia after World War II. When they returned, they brought back cooking affected by both Greek and Lebanese influences. Abgaryan incorporates a few of these ingredients like lebni, za’atar and sumac into some of his dishes so his California cuisine centered around fresh ingredients does on occasion have a slight Armenian twist. Though again since Abgaryan has been here so long, he’s been affected by so many different ingredients, flavors, and cuisines.
Immediately prior to joining Cliff’s Edge, Vartan enjoyed working at his last position. as executive chef of Public Kitchen & Bar. This position was one of many he worked at under the direction of Tim Goodell. Given Public Kitchen’s customer base, however Vartan felt he had topped out with what he could do menu wise in this hotel restaurant environment that shared its cooking line with room and pool side service.
So a change of scenery where he could focus, and develop was an opportunity he could not pass up.
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