Albanian Gastronomic Evening – Keep on the Flame of Tradition

Interview with Fejsal Demiraj, Sous Chef of Noma and Co-Founder of RRNO Foundation

3rd of January 2019

One if By Land, Two of by Sea

17 Barrow Street, New York, NY, 10014

rsvp: [email protected]

https://www.rrno.al/event/albanian-gastronomic-evening

Fejsal Demiraj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • How did you personally get involved with cooking and with Albanian cuisine? What has been your life journey, in a few words? What does the experience at Noma mean to you?

My name is Fejsal Demiraj,  I am first generation born Albanian-American from Yonkers, New York, I have worked in restaurants throughout high school and I later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

I always watched my grandmother cook. I loved her food. Working with Albanian ingredients or dishes, the flavors from her cooking are always in my mind when trying to elevate this “Cuisine of our Grandmothers”

After my schooling I worked in restaurants all over the United States, Australia and more recently in Europe.  My current position is as a Sous-Chef of Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark where I have been working for over 3 years now. Noma has achieved the place of and is consistently regarded as the world’s best restaurant owned and operated by Rene Redzepi, my mentor.

 

  • What is the role of the Rrno Foundation in this event?

RRNO Foundation is a not for profit organisation established by a group of Albanian chefs worldwide and I am the co-founder. The mission of RRNO Foundation is to preserve, develop and promote Albanian cuisine worldwide. This dinner will be the event where we will present our first major project of RRNO, for which we are raising funds.

 

  • How did you come up with the idea of this event? What was the process behind it?

Albanian cuisine is often overlooked. The coming generations of Albanian Diaspora know very little about their gastronomic heritage. We feel the need to show the hidden treasures of Albanian Cuisine and this is why we started this project.

This is a research project that I will be leading, and its main goal will be an expedition of ethno-gastronomy in Albania, Montenegro, Kosova, Macedonia and Chameria. The idea of this event was to present this project to the Albanian-American Community in the United States.

I am very excited to be hosting this dinner where I will cooking a set menu of 7 courses. I chose some of these dishes because they represent flavors of my childhood and some because they are flavors of what Albanian cuisine could or should be.

 

  • Why did you choose New York and this particular restaurant? What will this evening be about?

I am first generation born Albanian-American from Yonkers, New York. In New York I have a great support base from family to personal friends and the opportunity to get the attention of the diaspora. Our dinner will be held at “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” owned by Zef Deljevic.

Here are the reasons why we decided to host this dinner: to showcase the hidden treasures of Albanian Cuisine and to raise awareness among Albanian diaspora about the importance of strengthening our beautiful cultural heritage through food.

 

  • As in other aspects of a national culture there are influences and original traditions in the Albanian cuisine. How would you describe the Albanian Cuisine? What are its characteristics? What’s the best way to represent it?

For me, as a young Albanian-American growing up eating traditional Albanian food cooked by my grandmothers, Albanian Cuisine, put simply, is based on family and love.

That which best represents Albanian cooking, for me, is Fli and Qervish. Both are dishes as a child I watched my grandmother Nife cooking. She was an amazing cook! Her love was reflected in everything she did.

Albanian cuisine has always been strongly influenced by surrounding culinary cultures and it has been often considered the melting pot of Mediterranean, Balkan and Ottoman cuisine. However, there are some hidden treasures especially in the isolated rural areas and this is the goal of our project; discovering, preserving and developing those gastronomic traditions that we are in danger of losing.

 

  • What has been the reaction of the Albanian-American community so far? What do you expect from them? Why should they support this particular event of January 3rd in New York?

This event has been received extremely well by the Albanian-American community and awareness has been raised about the importance of preserving culinary tradition. We have also been lucky to align our goals with successful Albanian- Americans. We will be happy to reveal more details about our project during the this event and we hope that our mission and goals will inspire more members of our community to preserve our cultural heritage.

(Interviewed by Ruben Avxhiu/Illyria)

(Photo credit and courtesy of Matthias Haupt)

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