Eleni Vonissakou’s blog, The Foodie Corner, is full of delicious recipes and mouth-watering photographs (she’s a girl of many talents!). In both English and Greek. Plus our dogs are friends and we organize play-dates. So, how could I resist introducing her to all of you. Do go on her blog and be tempted! http://www.thefoodiecorner.gr/en/
Tell us a little about yourself
Hmm, where to start. Well, my mum is English and my dad is Greek, I grew up in Athens, studied in northern England and now live just outside Athens near the sea. I studied social work but caught the tourism bug early on, so that’s the industry I worked in for the first part of my professional life. I have now made a complete change and managed to turn my love of food and cooking into a job. I am a full time food blogger, creating recipes, cooking, taking photos and publishing everything on my blog. And then eating it all. I live with my partner and our golden retriever Westley, who takes up most of my limited free time! I love reading about dog training and other canine science articles, and always have a crime novel at my bedside (the only way to switch my brain off).
What were the major difficulties you’ve faced in the last five years?
The most challenging experience was going from a very structured, office working environment in a huge organisation, and living in the city, to starting my own business, working from home and living in a small seaside town. That all happened at once, and it was a bit of a shock to the system!
Did anyone in particular inspire you or help you?
I had a lot of support from my partner, and still do. In Greece when you start a business there is no financial help from banks etc (it is super difficult to get funding or loans, especially nowadays and especially for something as weird as food blogging) so I had both practical help and of course moral support from him. In fact it was his idea for me to start blogging professionally. Until then it was just a hobby and I had never dreamed it could be more than that. My mum has also been there every step of the way, and she’s the first phone call when a recipe is not working out!
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I hope to continue with successful collaborations with large brands from the food industry, but I also hope to build the other aspects of my business, like for example the food photography side of things which I really love. I recently organised a food photography workshop on Crete, and this is something I would definitely enjoy doing again since it combines my current work with my background in tourism and event planning.
What are your hopes for Greece? What changes do you hope to see happen?
Oh goodness, there is so much I would like to see change here. First of all, the all-round unfairness. Too many people get away with things they shouldn’t. And too many others put up with things they shouldn’t have to. I would love to see procedures work like they are supposed to, in all sectors. And most of all, I would like to see an attitude change in the people of this country. To put it plainly (and sorry for the bleakness) I am hoping for less selfishness in the generations to come. It’s not looking good though.
Have you considered leaving? If so, where would you like to go, and why?
I consider it every single day. When I am out walking in the street with my dog and I have to battle the rubbish out of his jaws (golden retrievers will eat anything and everything), when I am driving and have to keep calm with all the inconsiderate and dangerous drivers around me, when my accountant tells me just how much tax I have to pay now, on invoices for which I myself will receive payment in 4 months if I am lucky. The easiest choice would be to move to the UK, since I have family there and have lived there in the past. I would also consider Germany or Holland, even though I don’t really know what life is like in those countries. To be honest, I just want somewhere with nice clean parks where Westley can roam happily and safely! But it’s not an easy decision to up and leave.
If you have already decided to leave what would make you stay?
I think if I got to the point where I’ve said “I’m going”, nothing would make me stay. Unless for some reason I couldn’t take Westley. That would be different.
Are you actively doing anything to help with the situation? Is there something you would like to do?
The things that bother me are very deeply rooted in the mentality of this country, and that makes one feel very helpless. I can’t even imagine what I could do to help change things. As for the general state of the country, the fact that I haven’t moved my business out of it, and I don’t cheat on my taxes (which is sooo tempting) must count for something. In terms of supporting those more unfortunate than myself, I am a founding member of a team of food bloggers who have raised considerable amounts of money for charity through events. We cook yummy food and people pay a nominal fee to come and enjoy it with us. We haven’t been active for a while since our everyday lives have got in the way, but I really want to do another event soon. I might get onto that actually, thanks for the reminder!
How do you see Greece in 5, 10 years?
Truthfully? Exactly the same as it is now. With less young scientists and professionals, since they will have all moved away.
How do you cope with obstacles and frustrations in your everyday life?
Mostly I rant in group internet chats with my friends! I live too far to just pop over to any of them for a coffee, which is what I would like to be able to do. If my partner is home early enough from work we go to our local café by the sea and talk about stuff. Otherwise, I try to take Westley to his favourite park (one of the very few decent ones in Athens), where he can run free and I can feel happy with his happiness. Oh and ice cream.
What are the positive sides of living in Greece? Have you had any good experiences lately?
This is a difficult question and depends on the day you ask it. As you will have surmised from all the above, things are looking bleak these days. I will try and find a bright side. A recent amazing experience was my food photography workshop. We held it at Milia, (www.milia.gr) a retreat hidden away in the mountains of Chania on Crete. Stone buildings lovingly restored by the two owners, solar electricity with limited availability (no charging phones in the rooms!), good local food with home grown veggies and herbs, fantastic people. And our group was a mix of talented people from Europe, the US and Canada. I was proud to show off the amazing landscapes and beautiful beaches, the gorgeous meals, and the hospitality of the local team. We also put together some fabulous goodie bags, with good quality products made here by young entrepreneurs with great taste. It felt good to see how much we have to offer. Then I had to come back to reality.