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About Julianne

About Julianne

Julianne Burk

Fresno. I love the dusty smell of morning mist, the whistle of trains cutting through town, and the Armenian food I grew up eating. Even the dank smell of chicken feed wafting across H. Street was strangely comforting to me as I filed invoices at Ed’s Radiator Service, the Best Place in Town to Take a Leak!

All the same – I couldn’t wait to leave.

And leave I most certainly did. I’ve lived in Boston, Buenos Aires, New Haven, Newport Beach, and Bethlehem. I attended two Ivy League schools, met brilliant people, ghost-wrote for CEOs. A county mouse in the big city, I’ve experienced some wonderful things.

Decades passed with lots of sights and sounds and tastes, but I never found Armenian food that tasted like home. I tried to recreate recipes from the centennial church cookbook I’d brought along with me, but they always seemed a little bit off – as if those recipes were mere blueprints, and the secrets were in the missing editorial.

People always told me I was a good cook, but I knew better.

I’ve hosted Armenian dinner parties everywhere I’ve lived, featuring dishes from my limited repertoire. I once served sixty kids in a Harvard dorm (with some help from a bakery in nearby Watertown). But my food was entirely too literal. It yearned for the advice of a generation that was dying, or had died, in the case of my own clan.

Still, I often felt my ancestors’ presence while working in the kitchen, so about 10 years ago I began journaling about them in a project called The Stranger in Your Kitchen. At that point, they were only opaque shadows. I couldn’t see through to the other side.

Memory is the best seasoning.

We were living in Pennsylvania when my parents came for a visit. Within two days of arriving, my mom was hospitalized. Something was very wrong, but she couldn’t recall it. She just kept touching her stomach, yet the problem seemed to originate in her heart. It was a strange puzzle that only makes sense looking back.

We are now seven years into her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I enjoy looking into her curious eyes as she processes the world around her. Even people without memory can learn something new.

As for tastes, well, I’ve seen how a single spice can bring a whole lifetime back into focus. Think Anton Ego, the food critic in Disney’s Ratatouille, who dropped his pen once he finally got a taste of his childhood. When my folks get this look in their eyes, that’s when I know it’s right.

Seeking ancestral traditions, one lentil soup at a time.

It’s been seven years since I moved back to Fresno. When I first came home, I called it a detour, but I’ve since come to think of returning to Fresno as coming full circle. Being here has given me the chance to really commit to learning Central Valley Armenian home cooking, one of the last vestiges of Western Armenian traditions, just waiting to be celebrated.

I haven’t quit my day job. Most days I’m wearing my analytical hat, running my consulting practice from my downtown Fresno office – not far from the old Marashian Bastian on H Street. Join me at the if you need help with public affairs strategy, communications, or advocacy. Perhaps you just need a speech writer, an opinion piece, a policy essay? I’ll be here, and this I can do.

But if you’re craving a different perspective entirely, more along the lines of that Ratatouille food critic, check out my recipe revival here. And if you’ve got secrets to share? Email me at I’ll be here, seeking those ancestral traditions, one lentil soup at a time.

Read the long-format interview with Julianne in Shoutout Colorado about her approach to life, career and community. Click here or in the image below.



Listen to Fresno’s Best Podcast featuring Julianne on Apple Podcast. Also available on Fresno’s Best website.