Our Inspirational Story

Comfort Food with a Modern Twist

My mom, Maria, was born in Romania, and due to her mom’s passing at birth, and no one knowing who her father was, she became an orphan at birth. It was such a difficult situation for her grandma (her mother’s mom) who could not take care of her. Although she kept in touch, she took mom to an orphanage where she grew up. She was raised in Communist Romania, where life was hard, controlled, and even worse for poor people that could barely survive, where the living conditions were not very humane and children without parents were lucky to eat once a day. She became a strong, young lady with a passion for cooking, and that was the gift her grandma gave her throughout the years, when anytime she could, she would bring her food that healed her heart. Instead of hugs, kisses, and love that normal kids get from their parents, little Maria got her grandma’s food and advice that made her strong and optimistic. She endured a lot in her life, but just like the Phoenix bird, she would rise up and stood taller and stronger.

My dad, sister and I left Romania when I was 14, and for a period of time, mom was alone again. After the Romanian Revolution in 1989, she was able to reunite with us and we were a happy family once again. In the USA, the land of opportunities, she fit right in. After college, I opened my first restaurant, and without saying, she found her place of peace, the ultimate place of healing where her cooking started to touch everyone’s heart. It was there she became everyone’s “Mamaia” (grandma in Romanian). The love she never received as a child was blossoming in her tasty food. She wasn’t just cooking…each special dish had a story attached to it that came from her life experiences. Some were funny, some were sad, but her uplifted spirit and personality is what made people come back for more. I then realized, that, even though she never asked anyone for anything, being there with me and teaching me her secrets and her recipes, was her goal in life. It wasn’t just the comfort of her food that penetrated my mind and mouth, but the linger of the spices that were sprinkled at just the right time and the final touches before a dish left the kitchen. That was love…for me was a complete, new concept of COMFORT HOME cooking. She was never told ” I love you”, therefore, she never knew how to say it to us, but after each dish she made, I felt the love, no words needed. It was her way of sharing her hard life and giving love that she never had as a child.

We worked together side by side for many special years before she passed away in 2018.

Her 2 “SECRETS” about life ware simple: “look at what you have and not at what’s missing, and never give up, get up and keep fighting every day until the end”.

“Mamaia” will remain the rock, the foundation, to not only me as her son, but also to the business that we created. The recipes from her kitchen that I have decided to share with you will not only satisfy your hunger, but will also calm your mind and comfort your soul. They are made with love for people, the love that she gave unconditionally to all she met through her food.

Only after her passing, I truly understood the meaning of “comfort food”, and decided to honor her by sharing her food with others, by opening my 4th business, “Mamaia’s Recipe”. I am inspired  to follow in her footsteps to help others, therefore, up to 5% of the profits will be donated towards food to local shelters and to feed the homeless. We want everyone to feel Mamaia’s love through her food, and help those less fortunate at the same time.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you. Enjoy the food and please help me continue to spread her love to others.

Asim Etem

Executive Chef and Owner