By Susan Sherrill Axelrod
Photos by Ted Axelrod
Bright, bubbly and brimming with enthusiasm, Ninamarie Bojekian seems poised to become a major player on the catering and event-planning field.The 24-year-old, who lives in Fort Lee but often returns to her family home in Franklin Lakes to cook and prepare for parties, has named her company “ooh la la!” to reflect her philosophy that food should be fun as well as delicious. Bojekian’s fresh approach, inspiring the creation
of hors d’oeuvres like her signature Italian sushi (prosciutto, honey, provolone, Swiss cheese, Asian pear, cucumber and honey rolled and sliced, sushi style with balsamic vinaigrette) has already attracted clients like Englewood’s Dr. Jennifer Ashton.
Bojekian discovered her passion for cooking while studying anthropology at Pace University. After graduation, she enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, knowing that while she did not want to be a restaurant chef, she did need to acquire solid kitchen skills. Her first post was at Aquavit, under celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. “It was crazy hours,” Bojekian recalls. “I would be limping to the car at 3 a.m.” With her sights firmly set on catering, Bojekian left the restaurant world to become a private chef for a family in Manhattan.
But soon, her plate was full of requests to cater parties, so she launched ooh la la!. She now offers both private chef services and catering, but hopes to focus full-time on the latter. “I’m definitely an events kind of gal,” she says. “I love the production end of it; I love seeing the same plate multiplied perfectly; I love the sense of guests enjoying themselves.” Bojekian is a fearless cook who rarely uses recipes, and calls her style “very clear.” “I create menus by just sitting down and writing them,” she says. “The crazy part is half the stuff I’ve never cooked before.”
The girl who raced home from grade school to design and sew her own clothes refers to ooh la la! as “couture catering … fashionable food for fabulous palates.” And that means when the cooking is done, she is fashionable as well, dressing up to greet her clients and guests.
“I was stuck in a chef coat behind closed doors for long enough, and now I want to be out seeing how people are enjoying the party,” she notes. “I am the chef, but I’m front of the house, back of the house and everything in between.”