The Creators of FAT Lamb Kouzina
I grew up in a home filled with aromatic pleasures of homemade deliciousness! Traditional fare of old world Greek cuisine. Roasted leg of lamb, lemon potatoes, rice pudding, and fried dough drizzled with honey - harvested from the bee farms deep within the mountains of my mother's tiny village of Nymfi, Peloponnese.
Black and green olives, sweet wine, and layers of spinach/feta/potato enveloped within an all butter pastry pie from my father's native island of Samos. All reminiscent of my wholesome childhood and frequent visits back to the birthplace of my parents. Rustic cuisine runs deep within my heart and soul.
As a young girl, I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen with my Yiayia (grandmother). At first, watching her carefully as she moved effortlessly to prepare our family meals. It wasn’t long before I joined her in the kitchen. We share a similar passion about the quality of our food and take great pride in the taste and presentation of our meals! She might argue that she is still a better cook than me – I would argue that she trained me well. Many years later, we continue to find ourselves in the kitchen together - from time to time. The art of passion cannot be taught! In my case, it’s in my blood.
My Yiayia gave me the nick name of gatoula. "Little cat". When there was a remote smell of something cooking in the kitchen, I would always be the first one in for a sampling! I was her taste-tester. Most recently, she became mine.
My parents were successful immigrant entrepreneurs. They ran their own restaurant and catered to hundreds of thousands of patrons over the course of 20 years. The love and passion they placed in the homemade foods they made was incredible. I recall diners saying, “compliments to the chef” It wasn’t long before I understood why they would say that.
My life with my family revolved around food; in our home and family business. No wonder when I grew up and left their home, and had one of my own, I was excited to host parties and cook food for my friends and special gatherings of my own!
In my culture, a "parea" is a social gathering of family and close friends. It is in this setting that loved ones gather to eat fantastic foods, drink homemade wine or tsikoudia, listen to music, and celebrate life by sharing stories and engaging each other. I believe this to be one of the secrets to longevity.
The simple pleasures of life! It is this very essence that drives me to take pride in creating delicious, mouth-watering homemade foods; to recreate the art of social eating that seems to have been long forgotten. From our kitchen to yours.
From an early age, I knew food was my passion. At two years old, I helped my mom make a fresh batch of blueberry jam. The following day I explained the step by step process to a lady at the swimming pool. Visits to the grocery store were thrilling. I would see eggplants and, animatedly exclaim “MOUSSAKA!!!”. My parents brought me along on their frequent trips to the St. Lawrence Market (downtown Toronto) and before the age of four, I recognized all the fish and seafood in the place and could tell you their proper names. My palate had become so sophisticated by my fourth birthday, that I requested a Grand Marnier Cake for the party.
My first working experience was at a grocery store. There, I was exposed to an array of different vegetables I had never seen before. I would come home with big bags of fiddle heads or collards, just to learn how to cook them.
For two years, I lived in Greece. I was exposed to a completely different lifestyle and philosophy on food; the freshest produce possible, new ingredients and dishes, grilling meat on grape vine cuttings, picking fruit off the trees in the backyard, tangerines so fresh and flavourful the whole house smelled like oranges from the second you started to peel one. This experience gave me a true understanding of the words “fresh”, “local”, and “seasonal” before they were even cool.
Along with a love of eating food, in 2008, I discovered my passion for cooking. For the following six years I worked in various restaurant kitchens in Sweden. I was given the best chef training possible. I got paid to learn from, and work side by side with, some talented and accomplished chefs. Sweet deal! While in Sweden, I was unhappy with the available produce, so I planted my first vegetable garden. I planted some familiar veggies and some new ones that looked fun to cook with; amaranth, chicory, gai lan, heirloom collards, tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, and purple bush beans and herbs, to name a few. I was also introduced to the art of foraging for food in the Swedish forest. I was excited beyond belief to discover that most forest floors were covered in bilberry bushes (very similar to wild blueberries), like a 1,000,000 acre shag rug of berries! Needless to say, I made a few pies. There were many other equally delicious foods in the forest like various wild mushrooms, lingon berries, and raspberries.
How wonderful that all my experiences have led me where I am today. As Vera and I venture into the food industry on our own, I look forward to sharing my love of delicious food with you!