Hovsep Balmanoukian: “What I loved the most about Armenia was the people”

Hayern Aysor presents the interview with young Syrian-Armenian Hovsep Balmanoukian.

Hayern Aysor: Hovsep, when did you come to Armenia? Do you live here alone or with your family?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: I came to Armenia alone in early 2013. After touring the country with my friends for two months, I was hired as a waiter. Ten months later, my brothers also came to Armenia and we opened a textile factory. A year later, we were joined by our parents. Later, we started our own textile factory, but a year later, we realized that we had to close the factory down since we weren’t gaining any profit.

My father and I started thinking about opening a restaurant, but unfortunately, my father passed away. I fulfilled his desire with my friend whom I had met when I was working as a waiter for a restaurant. We named the restaurant after my father, Hrach (“Chez Hrach”-At Hrach’s).

Hayern Aysor: Hovsep, wasn’t it hard for you to start a new business after the first failed attempt?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: Of course, it was hard because we were in a very difficult financial situation. True, we still have problems that remain unsolved, but we have fewer worries.

We serve only homemade dishes made by my mother and promise a family atmosphere to all of our customers.

Hayern Aysor: How is Chez Hrach Restaurant different from other restaurants?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: The major feature is that all the dishes are homemade, and the employees prepare food with a heartfelt attitude. The professional approach is also important. The dishes are mainly the dishes that Armenians in Western Armenia would make. We want our establishment to remind the customers from Armenia and the Diaspora about Western Armenia.

All that you see in our restaurant is handmade. We have repaired the chairs and tables, and even the works hung on the walls are handmade. We reprocessed everything in the course of six months.

One of the most famous dishes at Chez Hrach Restaurant is ghaurma. They say it is very tasty. We have a special dish called “Mari Mamei Hav”, which my friend’s grandmother would make with lemon, garlic sauce and potatoes.

Hayern Aysor: Hovsep, what did you love the most about Armenia?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: What I loved the most about Armenia was the people. We were very well received in Armenia and became immediately integrated into the society. I really like the nature and climate as well.

Hayern Aysor: What difficulties have you faced?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: I think each person should realize that he must be more patient before making the move to Armenia. There are opportunities to have a successful business, but one has to wait a little.

Hayern Aysor: Hovsep, besides the family business, what else do you do?

Hovsep Balmanoukian: I study in the Faculty of International Relations at Yerevan State University. I will soon start working on my thesis, which is devoted to the war in Artsakh. This topic sparked my interest back when I was living in Syria. This is why I want to gain more knowledge about this topic. My ultimate goal is to become a lecturer at Yerevan State University and share my knowledge with young Armenians.

Interview by Laura Samvelyan

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