Catering with a Sephardic Twist
Alex Borukhov emigrated from Tajikistan, by way of Russia, to arrive on the Atlanta simcha scene.
After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).
Alex Borukhov is a caterer with many years of experience serving plentiful platters for all kinds of occasions, from kiddush to weddings and baby namings.
Sporting his trademark mustache, Borukhov has a background as varied and intriguing as his brilliantly-hued presentation of edible sculptures that elevate the art of food.
Borukhov grew up in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, and lived there until the age of 25, when a civil war broke out. The family fled to Moscow, where they lived for five years before immigrating to the United States at age 30. For him, being in the simcha catering business reflects a lifetime journey more complex than most.
“We were not particularly food-oriented,” Borukhov recalls, “but I have a handful of traditional Bukharian Jewish recipes I grew up with and continue to cook today. One of them is a green chicken and herbed rice dish called Bachsh that used to be cooked every Friday for Shabbat dinner when I was growing up, and we continue to have it each Sabbath to this day.”
Dushanbe, literally “land of the mountains,” is a landlocked city west of China and north of Pakistan in what is considered South Central Asia. According to Borukhov, at the time of his emigration, there was an active Jewish community of some 900 families. Bukharian Jews are known for their lavish weddings and kosher catered affairs. Atlanta has a thriving community and an ornate synagogue in Norcross.
When Borukhov arrived in the U.S., one of his wife Zoya’s cousins asked him to invest in a restaurant called Papa’s Pirozkis on Peachtree, as a co-owner. There, he found his niche and got more involved in the kitchen.
In 1998, Borukhov switched to the catering business and was approached to work with Congregation Or VeShalom, where his father-in-law was employed. As he says, “the rest is history.”
Borukhov works in a range of cuisines but specializes in Bukharian and Mediterranean.
“I combine traditional Sephardic foods with a modern twist,” he told the AJT. “I also have a number of chefs in my proverbial Rolodex with significant experience in Chinese, Italian, Indian and other cuisines that I call upon, as I have clients looking for those and other specialties as part of their events.”
Besides the traditional simchas, Borukhov has done lunches for up to 1,000 people. It was no big deal for him, though, since he was the head chef at Camp Barney Medintz, regularly feeding over 1,000 people a day, from campers to counselors and senior staff, all summer long.
Although Borukhov has catered both kosher, non-kosher and kosher-style events, he currently limits himself to kosher catering. He procures his meats at Griller’s Pride and, occasionally, from the Kroger and Publix in Toco Hills. Borukhov, who is based at Or VeShalom and often does events at B’nai Torah, has a staff of 25 chefs, waiters, bartenders and more who work at his events.
For Chef Alex, presentation is critical. An “Alex platter” can feature an exotic array, such as the intricate, layered dragon fruit and melon sculptures one might see on a five-star cruise.
To make food more attractive, “use everyday foods in irregular ways to highlight your food,” Borukhov says. “A few go-to ricks are tomatoes cut like roses, cucumbers shaped like flowers and using a coconut half as a dish for blackberries or blueberries, contrasting the white flesh of the coconut with the dark-colored berries. Tricks like that to make the color really pop!”
Borukhov and his wife, who have two sons, recently became grandparents. When he’s not in the kitchen, the chef enjoys playing tennis and swimming.
One trade secret he’s willing to share concerns one of the most popular requested lunch items for Jewish events. “The secret to making good tuna salad is only using fresh products —fresh-squeezed lemon juice, fresh celery (not pre-cut) — along with a good soul,” Borukhov says.
In addition to all things edible, Alex can supply flowers, gazebos, chair coverings and more. His motto? “Relax and be a guest at your own party.”