Valley Chef Says Use Food to Combat Isolation, Feed At-Home Workers and Help Support Hard Hit Local Restaurants
Los Angeles, California -- These are scary times with shopping malls, businesses, movie theaters and churches eerily empty. Some California restaurants report they are down 80% in less than a week and answers are not in sight yet.
Food shortages, empty stores and long lines aren’t new for Valley restaurant owner and chef Lusy Gradzhyan. After a massive 6.8 earthquake destroyed her home in Armenia in 1988, her community was hard hit. Her advice? Food is a something we all have in common and you can use it to help.
“Of course everybody needs to eat but food can be used not only for nourishment but as a means to show support, relieve isolation or provide comfort. It’s basic - food can bring families and communities together,” said Gradzhyan, owner of Lusy’s Mediterranean Café & Grill. “I’ve seen families sharing and helping each other out when there wasn’t much to go around. The same is true now. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t help. You can order meals delivered to a family in need or a warm dinner for shelter-in-place senior or lunches for employees forced to work out from their homes. Many restaurants also have gift cards which can be mailed.”
The impact of coronavirus has cut Gradzhyan’s business in half. But she is ready with her chef’s knife, face mask, disposable gloves and the Internet. Between chopping up fresh meats and vegetables, she has been emailing customers and posting on social media. Delivery sales are up. The restaurant just delivered food for 150 meals to a Valley church and customers are ordering family and small group packages.
Gradzyhan has been alerting customers that all deliveries are now free and is offering no-contact delivery service as well as curbside pick-up.
But she urges residents to help save any local restaurant by ordering delivery.
“Restaurant employees can’t work from home . They completely depend on their restaurant’s ability to keep serving you,” she said. “So, please order at least one meal in the next day from a restaurant you love. Order for one or for a family, whether it’s from us or any of your favorite local places. Instead of fighting the lines at stores, you can easily order delivery or pickup by phone or online from most restaurants. It’s fast, safe and you will be helping people who very much need to keep their jobs.”
Like many restaurants, Lusy’s has stepped up sanitation procedures and is letting customers know her staff is certified through the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program which helps ensure quality standards for food service health, kitchen sanitation and restaurant hygiene.
“Our restaurant is full of professional grade cleaning products and disinfectants and we use them. All our employees are wearing disposable gloves and following stringent measures for food prep. Our delivery drivers use hand sanitizer, masks and gloves to ensure customer protection,” she said.
Lusy arrived in the United States not speaking any English. But she did know how to cook. She opened Lusy’s Mediterranean Café & Grill in 2006 and the first few years were difficult.
“Sometimes we were lucky to have $200 in sales a day,” she recalls.
They had no advertising or promotion because they didn’t have the money. Luckily Lusy’s recipes were the key to their survival.
At Lusy’s insistence, everything was from scratch. There were no canned ingredients, no pre-made sauces or packaged foods. Her recipes came straight from Lusy’s grandmother with her own touches.
Word-of-mouth and Internet postings began to spread about the cooking that came out of their tiny space. Food critics began writing about their experiences. Reviews from MyDailyFind and LA Daily News brought new patrons. Westways Magazine, with four million readers, chose Lusy’s as a top pick. Yelp, the online guide for restaurants, rates Lusy’s as among the top in Los Angeles for fresh Mediterranean cuisine. They opened a second Encino location in 2018.
She says so far morale among their employees is good.
“We want to take care of them and our customers,” said Gradzhyan. “It’s going to be hard and there’s no doubt we will lose money. But we’re going to continue to do what we do best – cooking healthy food and trying to make sure people know they can order food and have it delivered safely.”
Gradzhyan says she is fortunate the community has been supportive of her cafés.
“I think LA residents realize how important it is to support local restaurants as small places will be the hardest hit. And of course, we are crossing our fingers for better times.”
“In hard times, you have to focus on who and what is most important,” she said.
For Gradzhyan that means taking care of her family, her employees and her customers. They are all family to her.
NOTE: You can contact Lusy’s at or
call 818-997-4330 to order.