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Ethiopian chef earns top culinary prize; dreams of opening own Ethiopian/Italian restaurant

Kubee Kassaye loves to experiment in the kitchen. On any given day, the young chef will whip up American, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and her native Ethiopian cuisine in her Parkchester kitchen.

“I just love the different techniques and style of food. It’s like an artwork,” said Kassaye, 28.

Her dream is to one day open an Ethiopian/Italian restaurant. And now she’s one step closer.

Kassaye, who works as a chef at the five-star Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan, has won the 2012 Legacy Award for culinary achievement by the prestigious philanthropic society, Les Dames d’Escoffier International. She was won of six women to earn the coveted distinction.

Chef Kubee Kassaye holds up the best of both worlds, an Italian dish and an Ethiopian dish. Kassaye won the 2012 Legacy Award for Culinary Achievement.
Chef Kubee Kassaye holds up the best of both worlds, an Italian dish and an Ethiopian dish. Kassaye won the 2012 Legacy Award for Culinary Achievement.

As part of the award, Kassaye will travel to Vancouver next month to work side-by-side with award-winning executive chef and author Margaret Chisholm, of Culinary Capers.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I was so excited when they told me.”

It’s been a whirlwind journey for Kassaye, who was born in a small farming village in Ethiopia.

Growing up, she always wanted to be a chef but school was not an option for her in a rural village.

“Back in those days, girls were always in the kitchen with their mothers,” said Kassaye, who was one of 10 children. “My mother would tell me to go play with the kids, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to learn how to cook.”

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At age 11, an uncle adopted her and took her to the capital city, Addis Ababa. Two years later, the family moved to New York, first to Queens, then to Co-Op City.

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