Meet Kathy, of Sweet Greek.
Kathy grew up learning to cook traditional Greek cuisine from her mother. These recipes have been passed down from generations. Her food is engrained with their culture and spirit. She stands proudly behind two cookbooks, Sweet Greek and Sweet Greek Life. In 2016 she was awarded the winner of the HACCI Award for business excellence.
Kathy is the owner of Sweet Greek, a wonderful shop at the Prahran Market. Her vision to share her love for food and the Hellenic culture has materialised more than she could have imagined.
Tell us about your early beginnings as a chef. Your family migrated to Australia in the 1950s-1960s and you were born in Richmond. How did growing up during that time period affect your sense of food & culture?
I grew up in Richmond which had a very strong Greek Community present. It also meant that cooking, feasting and sharing the table with friends and family was an integral part of life. My parents were very proud of their new home and encouraged me to pursue an education. This I did and I entered the corporate world, but behind the scenes I cooked continuously, passionately, always visualising and dreaming of a little food store that would predominantly be Hellenic.
I wasn’t sure how I would achieve this but then a cancer diagnosis changed everything. I exited the corporate world, continued my treatment and planned the next stage. My little shop. It was now or never.
What would you describe as a “true Greek feast experience”?
A true Greek feast experience for me is when we fill up the table with many plates of food that are prepared with love, using the best, seasonal produce. It’s a gathering of loved ones, sharing good food and wine, creating memories to be treasured forever.
Is there a chef you admire or admired growing up? How did their cooking philosophy impact you?
Growing up, the only person I admired and looked up to was my mother. She was a brilliant cook. But she was a nurturer as well. We didn’t own recipe books and I wasn’t aware of chefs until my teens when my Mum requested that she be sent a cookbook by Nikos Tselemendes. This was the first time that I would hold and use a cookbook.
Suddenly a new world opened up and I was able to bake new cakes that were beyond and more than what my mother knew and had taught me.
What is your own cooking philosophy?
My own cooking philosophy is a very simple one. I love to cook simple dishes using seasonal produce and bursting with flavour. The dishes need to be abundant.
My food is Mediterranean: therefore the use of extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, lemons, vegetables, pulses, seafood, spices and love are at the cornerstone of what I do. Slow cooking is my preference.
Where did the idea for the ‘Sweet Greek’ originate from?
Sweet Greek was born from a passion that I had for Hellenic cuisine, and a desire for it to be featured not in restaurant form, but to be made available to everyone exactly as I know it. Simple and delicious. The actual title Sweet Greek came about because someone referred to me as a sweet Greek.
What advice would you offer to young chefs starting out now?
My advice to young people today is to find a passion, have a dream. Visualise it and see yourself going forward. Stay strong, even during the difficult times and never give up. Plan properly, seek advice, ask questions and research continuously.