This recipe originally appeared at Better Homes and Gardens (https://www.bhg.com/recipe/sou-bourek/).
Michelin-starred chef Carrie Nahabedian credits her beloved Grandma Rose Nahabedian from Chicago for teaching her about Armenian cooking and preparation. “Our grandmother cooked every day,” she says. “She made her own yogurt, her own bread, her own phyllo. I believe that our moms and grandmas are the people who learn and pass on these family food traditions to their children.” She has carefully preserved her family’s recipes, including this version of Sou Bourek, a delicious layered egg noodle and cheese bake. (See: Barbara Hansen’s December 1999 interview, “Something About Carrie” at: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-dec-08-fo-41602-story.html).
Carrie began cooking in high school, when she would go to her Grandma Rose’s house every week and learn a new dish until she had cooked through her grandmother’s entire repertoire. She would measure her grandmother’s hand to learn the amounts of salt or olive oil to be used in a recipe. “My mother Helen cooks so tremendously, and my Grandma Rose, who passed away in 1991, was known in Chicago as the queen of Armenian cooking.” Carrie learned how to make pilaf, yalanchi and other dishes from Grandma Rose, and has clipped recipes from both women to the back of her favorite Armenian cookbook (Armenian Cooking Today by Alice Antreassian [St. Vartan Press, 1989]). ”Everyone in our family cooks and entertains with great style and flourish. I don’t like shortcuts or not putting your best foot forward all the time.”
Growing up Carrie was influenced in her cooking skills by her mother and by celebrity chef Julia Child. She described watching Child as “like watching an artist painting.” She began her culinary career with a three-year apprenticeship at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago. She then moved to Atlantic City to become assistant chef at the Resorts Casino Hotel when it first opened. Starting off as a cook at Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton, she quickly rose through the industry ranks, eventually mastering fine dining in both the hotel setting and at iconic Chicago restaurants like Le Perroquet, Le Francais and Sinclair’s.
Carrie was a protégé of Jean Banchet at Le Francais, Jovan Trboyevic at Le Perroquet, and Fernand Gutierrez at the Four Seasons. She was Chef de Cuisine of La Tour at the Park Hyatt, and served an Executive Chef for Four Seasons in Chicago, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
After leaving the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Carrie returned to her native Chicago to open NAHA in 2000 with her cousin and business partner, Michael Nahabedian. NAHA garnered them a James Beard Award. “We were blessed to have such great support from the Armenian community not only in Chicago, but across America. Many times, we hosted the Archbishop’s appeal for the Diocese,” says Carrie.