Aline Kamakian: on Bringing Armenian Food to the World at ‘Mayrig’

Aline Kamakian

“I remember whenever I wanted anything for my hobbies, I used to cook Soubeureg for my father. Once he had it, he was so happy he always gave me what I wanted. My passion has always been the kitchen, and this is what started my restaurant career.” Said Aline Kamakian, describing her story of founding Mayrig, the restaurant that keeps sharing the beauty of Armenian Cuisine with the world. 

Aline Kamakian was born into a loving Armenian family in Beirut. As she grew up, she watched her father struggle to put food on the table until he passed away when she was 18 years old, leaving his memory and passing down his passion for food. Aline remembers fondly cooking Soubeureg for her father, and his happiness and love for Armenian cuisine. Aline had a master’s degree in marketing and finance, which led her to start her own insurance brokerage firm. However, she never forgot the passion she had for Armenian food. So, moved by her father’s and her love for the cuisine, Aline founded ‘Mayrig’, the first and leading Armenian restaurant in the world, introducing Armenian cuisine to people and bringing them together around one table full of delicious combinations and motherly love. 

We sat down with Aline Kamakian to know the full story behind Mayrig!

How did your upbringing and heritage affect the way you perceive food and culture? 

The Armenian culinary heritage is so rich and full of aromas. I learned that at a young age by watching my mom. She was a brilliant cook. My father loved bringing people in every single day for dinner to spread this heritage. My mother used to whip out a table within 30 minutes. A full table that could feed a whole family!

Mayrig is homemade, made in my home as much as in the homes of all Armenian people living in the Levant region.

Mayrig’s dishes are nothing but our daily dishes, daily cuisine. But with a small uplift when it comes to portioning and to contrasts of Armenian flavors. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mayrig Cairo (@mayrigcairo)

What was the start of Mayrig, when did you decide to share the beauty of Armenian food with people?

It all started when I decided to make my father’s dream come true. I was a young entrepreneur filled with love for Armenian cuisine, filled with love for my family, and the memory of my late father. My father always dreamt of having a small eatery in a corner of this world to show people the vastness and richness of our culinary heritage. 

So, I opened Mayrig, a tribute to my father, holding the name of my mother, of all Armenian mothers.

Mayrig means little mother in Armenian, why did you decide to give it that name in particular?

I am, above all, a family-oriented person. The company feels like home, the restaurant feels like home, and the food feels like home. Mayrig is first and foremost, a tribute to Armenian mothers, who through all the years of war and of genocide, the years of fleeing and the years of death, preserved all these recipes of old Armenia. They passed them down from mother to daughter.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Aline Kamakian (@alinekamakian)

In Mayrig we surely have a chef, but in the kitchen, we have a busy buzzing of Armenian mothers, working wholeheartedly as if they are cooking those meals for their kids. Mayrig’s philosophy is that no matter how hard we update a recipe and work on its scientific balance, it is always the touch of mothers that brings out Armenia on our customers’ plates.

How does Mayrig contribute to a more environmentally friendly world?

One of our values is responsibility. Responsibility towards everyone and everything that is around us. Mayrig aims to be a zero-waste restaurant. All of our decontaminated food goes to food banks, and the food that was touched is processed into compost that we use in the lands of the small-scale farmers who provide us with the freshest ingredients. 

Plastic bottles are compressed and made into a green wall where we grow some herbs that we use in our teas and drinks. Wine bottles and glass bottles are treated and turned into artisanal blown glass orbs that decorate our chandeliers. Everything is upcycled and recycled in Mayrig and this only comes from the passion and sense of responsibility our family employees have for the brand and for their jobs.

What were the challenges that you faced trying to bring Mayrig to life, and how did you overcome them?

I am after all a woman in a very masculine-driven society. As a result, I have been called crazy for wanting to open an Armenian restaurant when people only knew Armenian street food which are Soujouk and Basterma sandwiches. 

I have been subjected to the law in our society where I cannot have my own business without the approval of a man or a male parent.

This was surely not easy but with perseverance and with a total focus on my “why” or reason to be, I managed to build a team who believed in me and supported me. My mother rooted a lot for me, she helped me with recipes and with mastering the Armenian “touch”.

Mayrig always prides itself on its staff, talk to us about Mayrig’s chefs, staff, and farmers. Who are they and how are they finding the experience? 

They are the best part of the business. I can never speak on how they feel but I can say that a lot of them have been around since the opening of Mayrig in 2003, some for 10 years, some for 8. No one comes into Mayrig and leaves. It’s a community within itself, I really feel it whenever I am there. I never call them staff, I call them partners or family employees. The culture is very open and inviting for anyone to be themselves.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Aline Kamakian (@alinekamakian)

Another value we have is inclusivity. And we mean by it that anyone and everyone is welcome to work at Mayrig, no matter their backgrounds. We try to offer a safe space for everyone to dream big and take us and the Armenian culinary heritage to new horizons… People have families of 4 or 8 or 2 persons. My family is of 56 people and they keep on growing in number!

How do you feel about Mayrig opening in Yerevan, Armenia, and finally coming back to the motherland in 2018?

It was a dream of mine to take Mayrig home. It is very important to note that Armenian cuisine in Armenia is pretty different than what we see in our homes in Lebanon and Syria and what is offered in Mayrig. Mayrig offers the experience of Western Armenia. Silk road spices and contrasts of flavors, colors, and temperatures.

Food in Yerevan is more Caucasian since it is considered Eastern Armenian and in proximity to Russia. It is more based around soups and stews since the most prevalent weather is very cold. When we opened Mayrig in Yerevan we were also laughed at, but it was a very emotional ride for all of us and we can now say, and proudly, that Western Armenian food has an address in the heart of Yerevan through the Mayrig kitchen.

How would you describe the feel of Mayrig once you come into the restaurant?

This is an easy question. It’s home. I have a home in each country Mayrig operates. It’s without a doubt home.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mayrig Cairo (@mayrigcairo)

Armenian food is not just food, it preserves its culture and shares it with everyone else, what are you hoping for Mayrig in the future in regards to that? 

I truly and really hope that this cuisine becomes worldwide, and we are seeing this all over Lebanese and Levantine restaurants. We are seeing more dishes reminiscing Armenia, we are seeing more mante, more soubeureg. People are loving the contrast of flavor Mayrig or the Armenian cuisine showcases and it actually makes me very happy. 

We are the first Armenian restaurant in the world and we are proud that Armenian food constitutes an actual cuisine nowadays. I never keep a recipe hidden and have actually put all of the Mayrig recipes and much more into my book “Armenian Cuisine” because I am a strong believer that food is a strong part of a people’s culture and it cannot be owned or kept hidden.

What would you like to say to the mothers and grandmothers of Armenia, the people who kept Armenian cuisine alive?

Thank you, I do not have anything else to say. I really cannot thank them enough. 

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.