In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Eleni Saltas, a passionate Greek-American woman entrepreneur, personal trainer, and the author of the popular cookbook "All You Can Greek." Eleni shares her journey from being a food blogger to a published author, how she combines her love for delicious food and fitness, and the significance of intergenerational learning in shaping her culinary style. We delve into her creative process, the challenges she's faced, and how her travels have influenced her cooking and understanding of food. Plus, find out what exciting projects Eleni has in store for the future. Don't miss this vibrant and inspiring conversation with Eleni Saltas!
Eleni, could you share your journey from being a food blogger to becoming the author of "All You Can Greek"? How did this transition come about?
I launched my blog in 2016 with the goal of sharing my passion for living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Being a personal trainer, I focus on health and fitness tips. On a whim, I shared a rizogalo (rice pudding) recipe and that decision forever altered my trajectory. After that one blog post, my usual blog reach tripled overnight and I realized that integrating my love for Greek cuisine and culture into my blog was the way to go, and so I began sharing my favorite Greek recipes.
Over time, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the origins of Greek dishes and the narratives and memories we create while cooking, so I decided to transform the recipes and stories into a cookbook. The title “All You Can Greek” came to me in 2017 on a boat ride in Greece, of all places, long before I had anything written down. It was then I also knew I wanted to dedicate the book not only to family recipes, but I wanted to incorporate personal anecdotes and travel as well.
When I returned from Greece that year, I embarked writing a book. I started with refined recipes from my blog, along with plenty of new ones. After many food trials and tears, I completed my first book in 2019. The transition from blogging to writing a book was exciting, and it allowed me to combine my passion for health, travel, and Greek cuisine in a way to reach a broader audience.
You're a personal trainer and an advocate of living a healthy lifestyle. How do you combine your love for delicious food and fitness?
Well, I am a full time personal trainer and have been for nine years, helping others strengthen and care for their bodies. It’s my day-to-day job and it makes me happy. Cooking, blogging and writing is my creative outlet and something I will always have a passion for. While I haven’t yet merged my personal training and cooking endeavors into a single project, I do have ideas for doing so in the future.
The number of women entrepreneurs is increasing around the world. How do you feel being part of this movement? What do you think has contributed to this growth?
There are many women carving their own path in this world, and I’m proud to be one of them. I’d love to see the numbers continue to rise as there are so many creative outlets for anyone right now and so much room for everyone to succeed. Women are especially great at building and creating communities, so if we continue to build each other up the better we will all do.
As a Greek-American woman entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced on your journey and how have you overcome them?
The support I’ve received from the Greek American community has been tremendous throughout my journey. It’s funny, and even surprising at times, to find that strangers (or followers) on the internet have become some of my biggest supporters. In my field as a blogger and author, I am lucky enough to not encounter harsh external challenges. My biggest hurdle lies within myself, as I tend to be my own harshest critic and I am the one that gets in my own way of moving forward. I know this is normal and I will have setbacks, I have been working to overcome this self-doubt for those days.
You've learned to make traditional Greek dishes from the women in your family. How significant has this intergenerational learning been to you and how has it influenced your culinary style?
There are three women who stand out on my culinary journey. One is my Aunt Mary Saltas Mannos, who taught me how the art of making loukoumades (honey-drenched dougnut holes) when she was 95, and shared her wisdom with me until she passed away at 103 years old. After squeezing my way through my first batch of loukoumades by hand I was hooked on learning and cooking—and I set off to more blogging and exploring Greek cuisine.
Although my maternal grandmother, Yiayia Helen Patsuris Metos, passed away when I was young, she left a legacy behind. I’m told she was a good mother and cook, and had some of her recipes published in our local newspaper. What I treasure most is the old recipe book she left behind. Each card transports me to her kitchen and connects me to her and her traditions.
My dad's mom, my spirited Yiayia Stella Nepolis Saltas, who is 96 years young (and still driving to bingo!), is someone who I connect with daily. We have a special bond, and our conversations often revolve around cooking. She’s rarely relied on strict measurements, and has taught me the importance of improvisation and intuition in the kitchen, as she often cooks everything to taste. Her memory is impeccable and she still remembers how flavors tasted 80 years ago.
These three women have instilled in me a deep appreciation for family, history, and the importance of preserving recipes and traditions. I know their legacy will live on through me. I will always carry on their love and passion through all things Greek.
Can you speak to the balance between maintaining traditional Greek recipes and introducing new, creative twists in your cooking? How have your followers responded to this mix?
I respect traditional Greek recipes, but I also recognize the importance of introducing new things to the table. Blogs and social media are saturated with countless variations of tzatziki and spanakopita, with each cook claiming to have the perfect amount of salt or yogurt that makes theirs the best. There’s only so many times I can post about spanakopita before me and my viewers gets bored, so creating new twists is fun and refreshing.
Some followers have expressed disapproval of those twists, saying it deviates from how their yiayia would have made it in their region of Greece, although nearly every Greek dish varies from region to region. However, I choose to embrace the enthusiastic followers who share the recipes with excitement and ask for more.
Your love for travel is evident. How has traveling, particularly to Greece, influenced your cooking and the way you understand food?
Greek food is world-renowned for turning fresh and humble ingredients into stellar dinner spreads. In every corner of Greece I’ve found a new tasty dish. Before taking a bite, I first snap a photo because I’m a millennial, and then when I return home I try and recreate it. If I can’t find the ingredients in the grocery store, I pick from my garden in the summer or even find ways to make my own cheese. Being creative has taught me to understand I don’t have to be in Greece to cook like a Greek.
Lastly, what's next for you? Any new projects or plans we should be on the lookout for?
It’s been four years since the release of “All You Can Greek”, so it’s long overdue that I share something new, and I have two projects in the works. The first is an eBook set to be released later this year, with a focus on vegan (nistisima) Greek cuisine. My second project is a labor of love that I’m not revealing the details of just yet! But I hope everyone understands I am thrilled for both of these projects. Thank you, Zelos Greek Artisan for this lovely interview!
Enjoy the delicious taste of PDO Kimi figs from the island of Evia and bring the flavors of a Greek summer to your table. Hand-crafted by Kumilio using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives, artificial coloring or flavors.