It was a defining moment for Greek-Australian first-time author Eugenia Pantahos when her inaugural book, Greek Life, won two awards for best Mediterranean and best self-published book in the prestigious competition ‘Gourmand Cookbook Awards, 2017’.
“I still can’t believe that my book has won two awards,” says Pantahos in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
“I must admit that prior to entering the competition I thought it was a long shot, but I figured I had nothing to lose so I sent off two copies of my book, one to France and the other one to China, along with the entry application form.”
Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau and every year authors from 205 countries submit their book entries.
It is the only international competition of its kind and it is free and open to all languages.
The awards ceremony is always a great opportunity to meet every protagonist in the world of food and books as well as hundreds of participating publishers, authors, chefs and journalists.
“The Gourmand Awards have been compared to the Oscars. They are inspired by the Olympic Games and their spirit and I feel very humble and proud to be part of this new world.
“I have touched people’s hearts in a way that I could not have envisaged and to be acknowledged in this manner is even more amazing,” says Pantahos who received a congratulatory email advising her on the results and inviting her to register for the Annual Gourmand Award Ceremony, which will be held in Yantai, China, in May 2018.
It took five years for the author to write and develop Greek Life and decades to record the family history and traditions, all whilst the mother of four was studying for an MBA and working part-time as a business manager.
“Greek families celebrate everything and the book celebrates everything Greek,” she says.
“I originally wrote Greek Life for my children and it was only ever going to be a family book. I put my heart and soul into creating a timeless collection, honouring the culture and traditions of Greece for my children to understand and appreciate their ‘Greekness’. There was never a plan for the book to become a commercial product,” says Pantahos whose family originates from Pyrgos in the Peloponnese region.
The recipes in the book are purposefully simple, reflecting the healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the much-desired relaxed Greek lifestyle that includes socialising, enjoying meals with family and friends, philosophy, laughter, spirituality, meaningfulness and storytelling.
Greek Life is not merely a cookbook. Within its pages readers discover recipes linked to unforgettable people and memories. It is an anthology of Greek customs and a way of life.
“Apart from my mum’s recipes, each section of the book starts with a relevant philosophy and transits a year of celebrations. With each recipe comes a symbolism and explanation so that the reader can gain a vast understanding of the Greek traditions and customs.
Since the book’s official launch at the SA Writers Centre two years ago, the response has been overwhelming.
Readers have been enquiring from the US, Canada, and the UK, with the book appealing not just to those of Greek heritage, but to just about anyone who has visited Greece and embraced its traditions.
“I have been advised that Greek Life will compete in the Gourmand International Cookbook Awards in the same categories against other countries for the title of Best in the World.
Having lost her mother Maria seven years ago and her father John Dessylas only a couple months ago, the award has a more potent meaning for the 53-year-old author.
“My book is infused with my mother’s blessing and my father proudly enjoyed the journey with me since it was published.
“Their spirit, their story and their blessing remains not only with me, but also with my family, my readers and beyond,” concludes Pantahos.