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Chef Cooks Up Way to Give Teens Seasoning

November 05, 1998|JAMES MEIER

Zov Karamardian started cooking at age 13 and it changed her life.

Now the noted Tustin restaurateur is hoping to change the lives of about 20 teenagers from Valley High School in Santa Ana, offering them free cooking lessons.

"I love to teach, No. 1," said Karamardian, who counts numerous chefs in her family. She added that there are many students who might be interested in food-related careers and "they won't know it unless they're exposed to it."

This is Karamardian's second semester teaching an after-school regional occupational program Wednesdays at Valley High.

Before that, she held cooking classes for students at South Gate High in East Los Angeles.

Students have been cooking up everything from holiday butter cookies to pumpkin soup. They also learn sanitary practices.

"It's quite a fun job here," said Karamardian, who has owned Zov's Bistro in Tustin since 1987. "It's so rewarding to see the kids waiting and asking, 'What are we doing today?' It's giving back."

Students said they are interested in careers in food service.

"I'm looking at restaurant management," said senior Jerry Garcia, in his second semester with Karamardian.

Sandra Gomez also said she's considering a career in restaurants. Having dined at the Four Seasons Hotel last semester with the class, she said she'd like to be a waitress there someday.

Judy Conner, who heads the school's home economics department, said students who take the class have an edge because they receive direct tutelage from a professional.

"It's been very meaningful for me," Karamardian said. "They don't look at me as a superior. They look at me as a mentor."

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