Chef Zov Karamardian
Zov Karamardian has achieved international acclaim, not to mention numerous awards, for her namesake restaurant, Zov's Bistro, in Orange County, California. Zov's unique and exotic spice combinations surprise and delight food aficionados to such a degree that OC Metro Magazine has praised her as "The First Lady of Food." In 2001, The Food Service Industry for the City of Hope honored Zov's cuisine, lauding her "thorough knowledge of the culinary world, commitment to quality, unwavering attention to detail, and her adventurous spirit as being responsible for the incomparable success of her extraordinary restaurant, Zov's Bistro."
As a child, Zov found constant pleasure in her family kitchen, where she learned to help her mother, grandmother, and aunts cook the family specialties of Armenian dishes, as well as those of whatever country they lived in at the time. Zov was born in Israel to Armenian parents, but she spent her first 14 years living in several Middle East countries - Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq - before finally settling in California in 1959. While trying to learn a new language and adjust to life in the United States, Zov discovered her greatest inspiration, Julia Child, on her family's small television set. Cooking quickly became a remedy for Zov's culture shock, and she came home from school to explore her talents in the kitchen and bask in the praise and approval of her family.
Zov's family support has been a constant throughout her culinary career. For many years Zov ran a successful catering business from her home. In 1987 she decided to take a leap of faith and transfer her energies into opening a restaurant, and her family supported her every step of the way. Her husband Gary, who initially had some misgivings, quickly became Zov's staunchest supporter, giving up his own significant career to work alongside her. What began as a small restaurant and bakery quickly became a dining phenomenon.
Today, Zov's Bistro is open six days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and serves over 1,200 patrons a day. Zov was named California Chef of the Year in 1999 by then Governor Gray Davis, and Restaurateur of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers. Gourmet Magazine named Zov's Bakery Café among the Best Bakeries in Southern California. The 2001 Zagat Restaurant Survey named Zov's Bistro & Bakery Café among the few listed for "Top Food."
Zov's public service and contributions to the food industry have been recognized with many awards. She was named a Woman of Valor by the American Diabetes Association for her fundraising efforts on their behalf, and she also received the Profile in Excellence Award from the Executive Women's Forum of Newport Beach, California. Zov recently became the seventh recipient of the prestigious Angel Award, presented by the James Beard House, in honor of her "independent vision, dedicated support, and significant contributions" to the culinary world. Her most treasured rewards, however, have been three key employees integral to the restaurant: her husband Gary; her son Armen, who is General Manager; and her daughter, Taleene, Director of Catering and Special Events.
Zov has been sharing her culinary knowledge nationwide for over 15 years through her classes. She teaches frequently at the national culinary store chain, Sur La Table, and at her own Bistro, selling out every class she offers. The classes at her restaurant have been honored by many guest teachers such as Barbara Kafka, Julie Sahni, Jacques Pépin, Todd English, Emeril Lagasse, and Julia Child. Zov's passion for teaching has also inspired her to volunteer weekly as an instructor of culinary arts to local inner-city high school students. Zov has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for culinary scholarship and local non-profit organizations.