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1976 Horatio Alger Award Winner

George M. Mardikian*

Food Consultant and Owner
Omar Khayyam's Restaurant

"The priceless things America has given me have nothing to do with money or fame."

George Mardikian was born in Papert, Armenia. His father was killed by Turks seeking to exterminate the Armenians. When he was 15, Mardikian ran away from home to join an Armenian guerrilla force. After Armenia's independence was recognized, he returned to his mother in Constantinople, but was captured by the Turks when war broke out again. He escaped from a prison camp, and with the help of his brother and sister who had already immigrated to America, came to San Francisco in 1922. He worked as a dishwasher in a cafeteria. In 1928, he signed on as a steward on a round-the-world cruise ship. During his travels, he studied under famous chefs to learn their techniques and recipes. Back in Fresno, California, he opened his first restaurant, Omar Khayyam's, in 1932. He later opened two more restaurants and a chain of sandwich shops. From 1942 to 1954, he served as an expert food consultant to the U. S. Army. He received commendations from Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower for the conservation and improvement of Army food. Mardikian was involved with the Boy Scouts for more than 61 years and founded the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians.

* Deceased