By Aram Arkun
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Armenian Heritage Park in Boston has been successful on many grounds up until now. It is a focal point for immigrants and tourists with its abstract sculpture and labyrinth, and a memorial to the Armenian Genocide and all genocides that have followed. Aside from attracting much attention from non-Armenians, it has brought together diverse elements of the Armenian community in its support. The Chefs’ Party for Our Park benefit on May 18 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge was a prime example of this.
Nearly 300 guests sampled great food and drinks provided by over a dozen chefs and a number of comestible and beverage companies while the John Baboian Trio played jazz and Armenian melodies for the crowd. The guests were financially supporting the Armenian Heritage Park Foundation, which in turn maintains the park and its various public programs. More than $200,000 was raised for the park’s endowment fund. At the same time, the guests were creating stronger bonds between one another.
During the brief formal program, James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Park Foundation, thanked the guests and the chefs for their support. He said: “One of the greatest accomplishments of the park and the process of putting the park together was the fellowship that we created in our community. And tonight is a wonderful example of the fellowship that has built across our entire community to unify in support of a cause that is dear to all of us.”
The Sheriff of Middlesex County Peter Koutoujian, an honorary chair of the foundation’s board of directors, said: “This Armenian Heritage Park brought us all together. Tonight we have the great blessing of having many Armenian friends and many non-Armenian friends getting together to help us celebrate this park, to contribute to this park, and to share their love and food.”
Koutoujian pointed out former state Rep. Rachel Kaprielian, the other honorary chair of the board, in the audience, as well as Massachusetts state Sen. William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), a longtime supporter of Armenians.
Koutoujian thanked Kalustian as well as Donald and Barbara Tellalian for their leadership on the park and the foundation. Donald Tellalian is the designer and architect of the park. Barbara Tellalian served as the benefit chair. She, in collaboration with Chef Vicki Lee Boyajian of Vicki Lee’s and Mark E. Mooradian, founder of MEM Tea and Karnak Farms, worked together to invite the chef participants.
These chefs were extraordinarily generous. They underwrote all their expenses and volunteered their time and labor. Each presented a “signature dish inspired by a parent, grandparent or mentor.” As Koutoujian announced their names, the chefs stepped forward and were given awards along with a great round of applause.
The Royal Sonesta Hotel, which hosted the event, itself was impressively generous in supporting the function.
Visitors left with gift bags full of donated nuts from Fastachi (Susan and Souren Etyemezian) and jelly from Harvest Song Artisanal Preserves (James Tufenkian).
Guests appeared most appreciative of the event. Dr. Jack Keverian, professor emeritus of Drexel University in Philadelphia, declared: “It is a wonderful event, not just because of the food but the people and the interactions with those who have a strong connection with the Heritage Park. We are all so delighted to be here.”
Kaspar Torosian, president of Hi Energy Oil Company and member of the Massachusetts Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee, said: “I was here for the first chef’s night. I am here for this one, and I will be here for the next. These events are very enjoyable and successful. The Armenian Heritage Park is the most important thing that we have done in New England, if not in the whole country. We have a park right in the middle of Boston that tourists from all over get to see. They take pictures home and educate their friends and family.”