By Sharon Yeo
Longtime Ethiopian restaurant Langano Skies will host its last meal on June 19. After more than 18 years in business, owners Paul and Amsale Sumamo have decided it's time to close this chapter in their lives.
"We are older, and it is a 24-hour job," said Amsale. "Even if we aren't here, we are always thinking about it. Everything is cooked from scratch, and it takes a lot of time – 14 hours a day, six days a week. We have three grandchildren and want to spend time with them. Time is too short, and the more we get older, the more we want to spend time together outside of the kitchen."
Still, it was a bittersweet decision to close the restaurant. "It's been emotional," she said. "It's been very hard. I couldn't smile during the announcement, I was so sad. If I was younger I would keep going."
The couple's four adult children have been involved in the restaurant, but have other full-time careers and weren't interested in taking over the business. The Sumamos were also adamant that the brand will remain with them. "Langano Skies will retire with us. It has a lot of meaning for us. The place, the lake(Lake Langano in Ethiopia), how we started," Amsale said.
The Sumamos acknowledge that they were not the first Ethiopian restaurant in Edmonton when they opened in 2004. But they still had to educate non-Ethiopian diners about the cuisine. In those early years, they participated in festivals such as the Taste of Edmonton and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, where they worked hard to make people aware of Ethiopian food and how to eat with injera.
"People had no clue about the taste, the texture, how to eat it," Amsale said of the flatbread made of teff flour. "In the beginning, we had to teach people about the food and how to eat it with their hands. We had people who took forks out of their purse! But we guided them – make sure the injera is flat, scoop your food, and put it in your mouth. It's that easy."