Jirik’s Culinary Cinematography: Crafting Memories in Every Bite

Dr. Mary Papazian, President at SJSU
April 25, 2020

Jirik had this incredible superpower - the ability to make anyone he met feel genuinely special.

When I heard about Jirair Avanian's sudden passing, memories flooded back—every interaction with him etched vividly in my mind. Every summer, I eagerly anticipated our meetings, certain that he, too, was looking forward to them.

I don't recall him ever asking about how I was doing. Yet, with just a quick glance, he seemed to know exactly how I felt and what was going on in my life. It wasn't just me; hardly anyone felt the need to say much around him. We were all there to listen to his stories. Stories, I suspect, he shared with many, yet each rendition felt uniquely tailored, with subtle variations in words and pauses and that distinctive Jirair stare mid-sentence.

In 2018, during a festival at his Dilijan restaurant, he came up to me and said, "Bales, I knew it. I just knew it. You'll know when the time comes to come back to Armenia."

Jirik curated his renowned restaurants like scenes from various films, each with its distinct atmosphere - Dolmama, Flying Ostrich and Imtoon. Nothing was ever over the top— even the grand chandeliers, massive tables, or elaborate rugs would gradually fade away, much like in a film, and the spotlight would inevitably fall on him. After all, it was his story—it began with his skillful craft of building something out of a dream, perfecting it, and sharing it with everyone. Even after leaving the restaurant, his presence lingered, alongside the wonderful tastes, smells, and feelings he crafted in his kitchens for us.

Jirair Avanian will be dearly missed.

Jirair Avanian with his granddaughter Anya.