This month I interviewed Garfield’s very own Vik Avakian, the owner and sole employee of the Garfield Café and a member of the Glendale community. Vik not only provides food and beverage services to the Garfield students, but also primary language support (he speaks Armenian, Russian, Farsi, French, and a bit of Turkish and Chinese) and information about our Noncredit programs by posting food pantry and class registration flyers to his personal Facebook page.
Vik keeps our student population (low-income adult learners, parents, and workers from the Glendale community) in mind by providing much needed sustenance before and between classes at a low price. Many of our students are attending English classes before and after work, so a cup of coffee makes all the difference in terms of attendance. Additionally, break time coffee and snacks around the Garfield Café can be the only time of the day that our students can unwind and feel a sense of community. He takes the time to get to know students and even provides free food and drinks to those he knows cannot afford food. Vik donates food to the poor and helps our Food for Thought Pantry by accepting vouchers for meals and sandwiches.
Vik works over twelve hours a day feeding our Garfield students, faculty, and staff, while remaining on-call for last-minute catering requests for faculty meetings, wherein he is quick to serve first and say, “you can pay me later.” He is sincere, thoughtful, efficient, and generous, making him an invaluable asset to the Garfield community. As a community member and small business owner who puts the interests of the campus and its faculty, staff, and vulnerable populations first, he should be given priority over a corporation when considering affordable indoor campus dining options amidst Tropico renovations.
If I could move indoors, I would serve more stuff. Here, I can’t do that much because it’s outside. Flies are always around here because of the sewer system. But I still work through this situation so that I can continue to do a lot for the college. If I moved inside, I could offer some self-service items and expand my hot meal options. Right now, I give a lot of free food out. We have a lot of students who can’t buy food because they don’t have the money, do you know what I mean? I have been doing this every day for almost six years. I’m here all day and night. I’m just here to work, help the students, and… make a little money. [laughs]
I came here twenty-one years ago from St. Petersburg, Russia. I was a student for five years and then I moved here. I am a professional musician.
I play guitar, rock and blues guitar. But, Glendale is a really good city, it’s very safe. I had a few restaurants a long time ago so I have lots of experience in the restaurant business. Plus, when I came here, I wanted to open a business because I wanted to work with these people here. We have good management here, especially Dr. Alfred Ramirez, who is a really good boss. And, Dr. Ali Kobaissi is really nice and professional. To be honest with you, I do my best here. I’m here all day asking people, “What do you need?” Or, “If you want something new, just let me know.” Sometimes they come here and say, “Vik, I want this or that” and it’s not on my menu. I say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you. I’m gonna bring you something.”
Yes, I’m very friendly here. Maybe I’m famous, I don’t know. [laughs]
My first language is Russian, then Armenian, Persian, French, Turkish (a little bit), and a little bit of Chinese because I was a soldier in China for two years in the Russian army.
Manchuria, on the borders of the former Soviet Union and China and Mongolia.
Some people don’t know I’m a musician. They always think I’m a cook who makes sandwiches, but after work, on Saturdays and Sundays, I’m a professional musician. I have a studio and that’s my job, too. I do a lot with music. That’s all!
“He makes great tuna sandwiches because I don’t eat meat! And, he makes really good food for when we have events that need catering.”
- Dana Eusan, Noncredit ESL Instructor
“When he catered the retreat, the food was wonderful.”
- Hasmik Tovmasian, Noncredit ESL Instructor