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Caterina Tzoridou moved from Thessaloniki to Amsterdam in 2008. She worked as a translator, subtitler and interpreter in Greece, as well as during her first years here. In 2011, she realized a long-held dream of hers: Olivity, a catering company with Greek-Mediterranean flavors, using olive oil as the basic ingredient for all products. At the same time, she continues to write children's books, nine of which have been already published in Greece.
Did you always have a love for cooking?
The cooking "bug" bit me as soon as I started playing with dough. Growing up, at elementary school, I slowly started to make my first desserts and then moved on to main dishes. You know, back then we were still living in Orestiada and cooking was being done on a wood-burning stove. It was impossible to measure the oven’s temperature: it would just get hot, you would put the dessert inside and, yes, it just rose and was delicious!
How many times did you cook for friends in order to choose the flavors you have now?
Countless times, both in Greece and here, so there were always taste-testers available. But ever since I got here and thought about starting Olivity, I began to take more notice of the specialties that were particularly impressive to my non-Greek guests. But there were more practical concerns as well; for instance, adjusting serving-amounts for a dinner or a buffet. Naturally, being Greek, you never want to run out of food, but it usually resulted in lots of leftovers here! These considerations, in combination with my customer’s specific catering needs, helped me to create the first “final” brochure for Olivity. But of course it is constantly evolving, because there are always ideas for new flavors.
With kind of flavors are you working with at Olivity?
With Greek-Mediterranean flavors, most of them modified to some extent. In all my recipes, Greek, organic, extra virgin olive oil is the basic ingredient. I offer vegetarian and vegan cuisine - or, as our grandmothers would say, everything suitable for Lent!
As a Greek yourself, why didn't you turn to classic Greek or Mediterranean cuisine which is known to the Dutch audience and is also something you are very familiar with since you grew up with it?
Some of the things I make are indeed classical Greek, but everything is inspired by my country’s culinary tradition. However, as all things evolve, so does cooking. I enjoy trying out new things and experimenting. I’m not claiming to be re-inventing the wheel, but what I would like for my Dutch, non-Greek and Greek clientele to see is the variety of the Greek cuisine and the flexibility of the Mediterranean diet.
Why did you choose health as a start in all the things you make?
When you are dealing with an amazing product such as olive oil, it’s a natural starting point. You become more particular in how you use it – but without having to save it only for special occasions, as is often done by Northern Europeans.
And then, there is my personal taste. For instance, I don’t generally like fried foods or deserts that "choke" you with sugar upon the first bite. Avoiding this type of cooking allows flavors to take on a lighter and healthier feel.
If you had to choose only one food to eat forever, which would it be?
It's a tough choice, but I think I would go with eggs. You can make all sorts of things in order not to get tired of them and I do like the way they look: like little “packages”. When I was a child, my grandma kept a chicken coop and I was crazy about picking up the eggs: I used to get a stick, go in the coop and chase away the poor chickens!
Where can all those that want to try out your flavors, find you?
Up until December I was at different open-air markets in Amsterdam every weekend. After that, because most of what I make cannot be frozen (the cold just wouldn’t come to an end this year!), I stopped for a while and I was working mainly with orders through the website. I will start again with the markets very soon. Also, anyone can just like my Facebook page and get updates about when and where I will be, and discover my products.
Besides the open-air markets, you can sample and purchase my dips every Saturday at the Groene Griek's stall at Lindengracht. My baklava and ‘tiropitakia’ (small cheese pies) are being served at Foam, the Amsterdam Photography Museum.
At some point within the summer, I will also have my own space in west Amsterdam. For now I am still searching for the right location, but it is something that will definitely happen. Until then, you can always place your order via my website.
What else are you "cooking" here in the Netherlands?
Something that I have been "cooking" since I lived in Greece: I write children's books, nine of which have already been published. After a period of adjustment, I have started a new project, a series of books. The first three are already finished, but are awaiting approval for publishing. I’m definitely looking forward to it!
Have you brought your beautiful stories here to the Netherlands?
If you are asking whether my books have been translated in other languages, the answer is no -at least for the time being. I'm now discussing the publication of one of my books into English and Dutch with my publisher. We’ll just have to wait and see...
Have you been creative and restless since you were young or has the Netherlands unlocked another side of you?
I was quite busy and did quite a lot back in Greece as well, but what I see in the Netherlands is a more organized society and an infinitely healthier market financially and more open-minded towards new things. This doesn't mean that everything is easy. After all, even here people have had to tighten their belts in the past five years. Regardless, people here seem more open to creative experiments. Innovative people back in Greece often struggle with attitudes like, "Oh… come on… why bother?” I prefer the Dutch attitude: "Why not? Give it a try, you never know."
What can we expect from you on all levels, cooking and writing?
As far as my writing is concerned, I hope to have my new project published within the year. And of course Olivity's new space this summer. And, yes, I will have frappé and slow-brewed Greek coffee!
Photos by: Yvonne de Zeeuw, Kristie Lormand