Langano Skies
By Becky Hagan-Egyir

The Golden Rule and the test

“I always say, never serve something you wouldn’t eat yourself.” This is Amsale Sumamo’s golden rule for serving Ethiopian food at Langano Skies. It’s a principle she’s held fast to since she first began cooking. But her passion for cooking was grimly tested in April 2011.

It was then that Amsale, co-owner of the family-run restaurant with her husband, Paul Sumamo discovered that the restaurant had been partially destroyed by an overnight fire. Thanks to the restaurant’s thick cement walls, much of it survived, but there was still a lot of work to be done. And it made Amsale question whether re-opening the restaurant was a promising investment.

She was growing older, she says, and the money needed to rebuild was too much. Family, loyal customers and friends convinced her otherwise. Now, bright colourful walls fill the room. Together with Ethiopian art from tablecloths to wooden statues, it creates a feeling of perseverance at Langano Skies.

We hope people will continue coming. That is our hope. - Amsale Sumamo, co-owner
The painting on the wall of warm sunlight descending on a open landscape was painted by Amsale herself after a fire in 2011. Photo provided courtesy of Langano Skies.

An open door policy

Amsale didn’t always have a passion for cooking, but events in life made her learn very quickly.  Growing up on a farm in Ethiopia, Amsale recalls a busy home filled with people. “There was always somebody coming and going,” she says. “Somebody passing by. The doors were open for anybody.” For Amsale, going by the wood stove to watch food like injera (Ethiopian flatbread) being cooked was out of the question, with concerned adults shouting, “Stay away from the fire!”

Amsale was 19 when she left her home country, travelling south to Sudan. “Then, I had to figure out how to cook,” she says. Sharing a house with five other people, everyone took turns cooking on month-long rotations and Injera was a household favourite. “In Sudan, they have a whole different kind of injera…. But at least, they never say the injera is ours,” Amsale says. “They know it came from immigrants, and the Sudanese learnt it from them.” In turn, Amsale picked up some cooking skills from Sudanese friends.

Langano Skies is a family-run restaurant run by Amsale Sumamo and her husband, Paul.
Along with hearty meat dishes, Amsale also serves up a variety of tasty vegetarian dishes at Langano Skies. Photo provided courtesy of Langano Skies.

The joys of cooking

When she first arrived in Canada, Amsale made a few mistakes with cooking, which still make her laugh today. She recalls the first time she baked a carrot cake – “It was so delicious! But I put the icing (on it) and I put it back in the oven. There was icing everywhere!” Amsale continued learning by experimenting. Opening the fridge, she’d pick a few items, put them together and see what resulted. It usually turned out very well. “So, I became kind of proud!” she says. And her skills, eventually, led her to open Langano Skies with her husband.

The menu recalls Amsale’s life experiences. The blending of meats, delicious butter straight from Ethiopia, spices, bright vegetables paired with injera, rice, or green salads have all made the restaurant a valued place among customers. Amsale and Paul sit and talk with many of them.

It makes the restaurant seem like a second home. “And we hope people will continue coming,” Amsale says. “That is our hope.”

The menu at Langano Skies reflects Amsale Sumamo's personal history.
The restaurant is known for cups of coffee made from beans produced in Ethiopia. Photo provided courtesy of Langano Skies.
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