Originally from Georgia, Liana arrived in France 5 years ago. Based in Strasbourg, she enjoys the mix of cultures and passes it on to her children. A lover of cooking and a talented chef, she embodies this cultural diversity on a daily basis. Accompanied today by the team of the local Stamtish association in its professional journey, you may have had the chance to taste its kachapuri pizza at Pecora Negra during the Refugee Food Festival. Portrait.
Can you introduce yourself ?
My name is Liana, I am Georgian. I arrived in France in 2018 with my children.
I was born in Kobuleti, in the Adjara region, near the sea. It’s a beautiful city, very touristy… But for me it was different, I couldn’t live there anymore so I lost all interest in this place and these people.
In France, I was able to find work after 4 months of searching, at the Couvent du Franciscan hotel. I started taking French lessons, it’s obligatory. Then I started cooking and sewing training… I did everything. This was very important because I didn’t want to stay at home. When I’m at home, I think too much about my life before.
What made you head to the kitchen?
When I was little, my parents were very harsh, I could never cook. For example, if I wanted to make a cake, they refused. If I asked to make a salad, they told me “no you’re going to hurt yourself”. I always thought I would do what I wanted when I grew up.
Later, at the wedding of one of my neighbors, the chef asked me for help. I said to myself why not. He told me that I was very talented and that I could open a restaurant one day. But he didn’t know my situation… I started helping people in the kitchen but my husband was against it, he wanted me to stay at home.
My dream would be to open a restaurant here, but I’m a little scared because it’s very difficult. It takes a lot of money. I love mathematics, counting etc. However, in the restaurant everything is very precise, whether for quantities, everything must be to the milligram, or financially.
A restaurant requires a lot of rigor and can go bankrupt at any time. The ideal would be to start with someone, to do a little Georgian cuisine and a little French, or Italian cuisine… I like discovering other cultures, for me it’s very important!
Do you have a particular memory linked to cooking from your childhood?
I come from a large family, I have 5 sisters and 1 brother. When I was little my mother became very ill, she could no longer walk and was bedridden for 45 days. My brothers worked and were away from home a lot and my older sister got married. There was only my little sister (too young) and me left to take care of my mother.
One day I thought about what I could cook and I made a kind of nettle salad. I tasted it and wondered what I could add (because nettles don’t have much flavor). I put potatoes, onions, sunflower oil, long tomatoes, garlic, coriander and parsley. After tasting, I said: “I’m not dead, so you won’t die either, you can eat!” »
This is how I started! And little by little I learned everything because I was alone at home. I had to get up at 5 a.m., help my mother, go to school with my sister and when I came home I helped my mother take her shower and her medicine, I cooked food and then I went to work in the fields of tea.
What are the key ingredients in your cuisine?
I don’t speak for all Georgians, but I would say onion, tomato, cilantro, garlic, parsley and red peppers. With that, I can do everything, it’s mandatory for taste and visuals.
I don’t really like meat. What struck me when I arrived here was the way we communicate with animals, dogs. It’s very different from my life before. When I was in Georgia I lived on a big farm with lots of cows. I saw them small, saw them grow up and suddenly their heads were cut off!
It left me speechless. When I arrived here, I was struck by a video about an animal shelter, in Spain I think. A place like asking for asylum… But for animals!
Is there a French dish you like?
I really like mushroom sauce, I can eat it with everything: fries, potatoes, spaghetti, spaetzle, eggs!
During my first training, we were taught to cook with semolina. I really like semolina, but here it’s very different. I made it again at home, added cucumbers, coriander, chives and thyme and mixed everything together. When I gave my children a taste they told me “Mom, it’s perfect!” ».
How do you feel when you cook?
When I cook I am very calm, I think about a lot of things, I feel a lot of happiness. I think about my dish, I wonder what I’m going to add, and I think about other dishes I could make.
Who do you prefer to cook with?
I like cooking with my children, because they like it. For example, one day during Covid, I woke up at 3 a.m. and felt that someone was cooking. I got up to find my daughter watching a YouTube video preparing Chinese food.
I asked her why she was doing it at that time. She said : “Mom, it was so beautiful,” so I stayed and watched him cook. After that she started cooking every day during confinement, and now she is a very good cook, like all my children!
It’s convenient to cook together, it goes faster. I always cut onions, my children don’t like it because it makes them cry. One of my daughters cuts the parsley and cilantro, another cuts something else, and we can do it all at once. All my children love to cook, it’s very important for a family!
Could you tell us about a dish that has already taken you on a journey?
Sushi! Before I couldn’t eat it. It was weird for me. One day an Armenian friend told me that he was going to make me sushi and that we could eat it together. I said no, I don’t want to see how you cut off the fish’s head, all that… He told me “but no, it’s not like that!” ». When I watched him make it, with the rice and all the ingredients, I wanted to try it. Then taste. And I ate it all!
Also, I discovered burgers. There are a lot of burgers in Georgia but it was difficult for me to eat them because of the meat and because I didn’t leave the house, it was like a cosmos! Then one day in France, my daughter asked me if I liked burgers. I replied that I didn’t know anything about it. She took me to McDonald’s. All my children were looking at me. When they brought me the burger, I asked for a knife and fork. So the staff looked at me and said “We can’t eat like that, we have to eat with our hands, Madam!” “.
In your opinion, does cooking allow you to pass on practices and traditions?
I’ve been in France for 5 years already and I haven’t cooked much Georgian food. My children enjoy foods from different cultures. When I learn dishes during my training, I redo them at home.
One day my daughter asked me if I could mix a Georgian dish and French culture. I said yes of course. For example in Georgia we cook chicken with rice by mixing everything together. Here we separate the ingredients on the plate, we must not mix too much. Yet they are the same ingredients. When I made it for my daughter, she first tasted “French style”, with the ingredients separated on the plate and when she mixed everything together, she loved it! Ultimately, it’s only the decoration that changes.
When I worked at the Météor restaurant, I cooked a Georgian dish for my colleagues, a imerulli kachapuri. They all asked me what I was doing because it smelled good. They had never tasted this dish; we all do very different things.
The day I have a restaurant I will make a roast chicken like in Georgia, but we will add the French mushroom sauce.
Pokaa and the Stamtish association are joining forces to share with you our common love of food and people involved in the restaurant industry. In this series of portraits entitled Humans of food, we will invite you to discover these faces who are involved in Strasbourg through interviews focused on sharing and good food. Because if there is something in this world that brings us all together with our differences, it is a good meal. And here we have understood this for a long time.
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