Sophia Stamou was born in Athens, Greece to a family originally from Corinth, Greece. The accomplished food writer and host and producer of 'The Anthology of Greek Gastronomy' was only 12 years old when she first started practicing culinary art.
Sophia loves the warmth of collecting friends and family around the table - the Greek way to welcome and treat loved ones. She continues to collect the best out of any place in Greece that she visits to film and produce her shows.
When did you first notice that you had culinary skills? And were they by inclination or developed with training?
First of all, I would like to thank you very much for your invitation. It is such an honour both for myself and the whole team and credit to our great work with the Anthology of Greek Gastronomy.
The Anthology of Greek Gastronomy is the most important and authoritative World Guide in terms of the Gastronomy of Greece, which, after endless studies, research and a lot of work combines a huge volume of material far and wide across this country of Greece.
Regarding your question, I realised how much I have loved cooking - since I was a small child, as I intensively watched and followed the family cooking tradition. At the age of 10, I made my first, awkward creations. This shows that I had momentum from a young age!
Cooking is taught only by the soul and from there each dish passes first, before reaching the palate. Νο amount of training makes a cook. Only love for gastronomy will enable one to transcend in the field and that is when the education will bring to one’s path the necessary knowledge to proceed more penetratingly in their art.
My big weapon in the knowledge of cooking was my contact with the adored Makis Velissaropoulos and my collaboration with him at Le Monde School. I owe a lot to this rare man who was rich both in morals and knowledge. Makis Velissaropoulos…May God rest his soul.
Anyone would assume that with a major in English and French literature you would become a language teacher but instead you chose to get into the translation of cookbooks. How did that happen?
I really like writing books. I used to write from a very young age and my books are a special component of my way of thinking. Cookbooks are always enjoyable and fill you with knowledge and ideas. So, I decided to read a lot of books and start translating. Then came Le Monde School, the ultimate expression of English and French cooking and confectionery terminology.
Next came my cookbooks, in relation to experiential stories and now I am making a new book that contains my experiences, from my travels all over Greece. This book breathes and has a heart - the heart of every Greek home. I worship this Greek home that lies in every corner of our country - I bow to it and I bow to the greatness of these people!
Is food writing an economically viable profession in Greece?
Unfortunately, I can not answer this, because writing books is not a profession for me! My books provide an optimistic message; the description of tastes and the relationships of ingredients unique; a patchwork of performances and thoughts, full of truth, passion, love, respect and substance!
My books contain the essence of Sophia from Porto Koufo of Halkidiki, Maritsa from Syros, Anna from Santorini, Panagiotis from Kythira. These are warm hugs, serving food of incomparable quality and taste, in combination with a smile - believe me – the contents are priceless.
What qualities do you think make a good chef?
A good chef, first of all, must be a good person. An honest person. This is the case across all professions.
First, you are a human being and then you are everything else. You become a good cook with the years, with the willpower and gathering of experiences. Your home, your family and your environment make you a good person, your birth. A good cook must pay close attention to cleanliness, raw material and freshness. He must be polite to his associates, and talkative with his audience. He must know how to listen to and accept opinions and criticism.
Are there trends in food? Do any of the current trends excite you?
Of course, there are plenty! We like to eat certain food in the summer and others in the winter. You find some flavours in Aegina and others in Karpenisi. Thrace has a different food culture and Arta another. However there is one common element everywhere – taste is in combination with cleanliness, offered to you with kindness and consistency.
What are some of the meals that just sing “comfort food” for you?
I love sweets and desserts, pulses, legumes and everything fermented. I certainly have my weakness and this is not hidden [Sophia laughs].
Are there any chefs you admire? What do you admire most about them?
Difficult question, because there are many acclaimed chefs in our country and I have met many of them. Do not ask me to say names, Greek cuisine is a history of philosophy and I am proud of being a member of it.
What’s your favourite dish to cook and why?
Stuffed vegetables are my favourite food and always I love to sauté them to cook them. Sauté the onion and take the food to the next level! This is my secret, for all those who have tried my vegetables ask me, “But what do you do to make it turn out that way?”
Sauté in plenty of olive oil, my friends!
What is your oldest and fondest food experience memory?
I have had uncountable unique experiences… Cooking authentic Greek fava on the volcano of Santorini in huge cauldrons, on the Eve of Taxiarches; snail picking and cooking in Halkidiki, baking sweet cheese pie by the sea in Syros, toasting handmade bread in a wood oven in Kythira.
I keep as a charm everything I have lived in the neighbourhoods of Greece and I look forward to what I will live in the future.
You hold a leadership role as the CEO of Sigma Media Group. What is the mission and vision of the Group?
Greece is an endless light! The mission of our company is to relay this light globally.
Greek heritage is the past, but the Greek spirit is the future.
Greece is not just a three-month vacation spot. Beyond the magnificent sun and sea, there is an unknown side of Greece ready to be discovered all around in both small and big neighbourhoods in every place, village or town.
Exploring these unique places is the ideal way for you to see the real incomparable personality of the simple daily ‘heroes’ of Greece and the huge hospitality of this country, at the same time, an appointment to the originality of mind and soul.
Can you tell us about the clientele of Sigma Media Group?
We don’t have customers. We have friends, collaborators, supporters and people of daily toil, who have recognised its value and its mood. That΄s why they all remain by our side absolutely and universally. At the same time, very large companies have embraced us with their valuable sponsorships, to achieve the common goal that we all have – for Greece to become the trademark for visits every day of the year, every season, every hour, every moment. Our country deserves it!
What are some of your future plans?
My future plans are many and inexhaustible!
At the moment, we are filming ‘The Anthology of Greek Gastronomy’, which is the most complete and valid guide in terms of Greek products, catering, sweets and food in general. The Anthology is conducted in parallel with the Taste Journey in various regions. Both will be resources that supply the World public with all the information needed, in order to eat properly in Greece or to shop properly in Greece and beyond. It is a valuable guide and when completed will be a great work containing incomparable statistical research on the Gastronomy of Greece.
How hard is it to be the hostess and producer of your own shows?
It is unimaginably difficult but at the same time endlessly creative and wonderful!!!
I have no words to describe what a gift my team and all these rare people who have supported us in every place has given to me.
If I would ask you to choose between a traditional food business and a vegan food business what would that be?
Every kind of food has its beauty and I love every kind of cuisine. I support the traditional - common way of eating but at times in the past I have searched for the health and peace that vegan cuisine offers. Vegan cuisine is not a fashion of the time. It is a way of life and I bow to those who can follow it. I wish we all had this philosophy inside us. I try very hard to continue to study this cuisine and to discover the countless benefits it offers to us.
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