When Lusy Gradzhyan signed a lease on a small restaurant space in Los Angeles, all she knew was that she was a skilled cook and a hard worker. She was hopeful those two qualities would be enough to guide her toward success. As part of our Women’s History Month celebration, we talked to Lusy of Lusy’s Mediterranean Cafe & Grill to hear more about her journey from immigrant to restaurant owner and chef.
“I didn’t have a big plan,” Lusy says of the time leading up to opening her own restaurant. “A chance opportunity came along and I took it.” And that chance opportunity has turned out quite nicely for Lusy, who immigrated to the U.S. from Armenia in the late ‘80s. Lusy’s idea was to focus on fresh ingredients–nothing canned, pre-packed, or pre-made would be allowed.
“My inspiration came from my grandmother and from Julia Child,” she says. “Watching my grandmother cook for my whole family showed me that being able to prepare food was a way to show love.” That, combined with Child’s emphasis on fresh ingredients over ‘fancy masterpieces,’ helped convince Lusy that she could take the plunge without having a French cooking school on her resume.
Like so many chef-owners before her, Lusy dealt with a lot of challenges, especially in the beginning. “I had to learn the financial realities of the restaurant business on the job and from my mistakes,” says Lusy. There was also the isolation. “So often we work 24 hours a day and try to figure everything out ourselves,” Lusy explains. For that, she’s found meeting with other business owners and bouncing ideas off each other was crucial.
Lusy’s hard work and willingness to adapt eventually paid off though, and Lusy’s Mediterranean Cafe & Grill began to take off. The restaurant started getting tons of Yelp reviews, and positive word of mouth began to spread. The lines began to grow. Then food critics showed up and sang the restaurant’s praises too.
Nowadays, Lusy is enjoying her increasing success. “My favorite part is the fact that I am doing what I love for a living and get to make money doing it. It’s that simple,” she says. She also loves the fact that her job means making other people happy through food. It also doesn’t hurt that she gets to meet people from all walks of life, and that she’s constantly learning new things.
Thinking to the future, Lusy is both practical and ambitious. “Well, for one thing,” she says, “ I hope I’m making new mistakes every day. If I keep repeating the same ones, I’m not going to grow.” Beyond that, she hopes to open new restaurants, bring some of her staples, like her salad dressing, to the retail market, and maybe even add celebrity chef to her resume. “People like Julia Child and Rachel Ray have shown what you can do on TV,” she says. “I think that would be fun.”
With the addition of the Women-Owned business attribute on Yelp, you’ll now be able to see whether or not specific businesses in your area are women-owned!