Sometimes in life, you think you’ve got it all figured out: the path you should take, the career you should have. But life has a way of twisting and turning and ending up in a whole different place. Sometimes it takes a person, or certain words, that can change the “plan”. That is exactly how it all changed for Eleni Vavouris.
Eleni Vavouris is the executive chef and owner of STF Events and Catering. Eleni grew up in a large Greek family and community in Memphis. Her love of eating and cooking grew organically by watching and learning from her Greek and Southern relatives. However, she never saw food as a career, just a stress relieving hobby.
She headed off to college at the University of Tennessee Martin and earned a degree in Human Environmental Sciences and Psychology. A year into her studies for a Master’s in Family Counseling, a friend, sensing her frustration in her chosen field, asked, “Why don’t you go to culinary school? You cook for us all the time. It just makes sense.” It all clicked for Eleni, and she set off to discover her true life-long passion.
After a culinary apprenticeship at the famed Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and earning culinary and catering degrees from Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, Eleni moved back to Middle Tennessee to begin her cooking career.
After a stint as an executive chef with Sodexo, she decided to start her own catering company: Savor the Flavor Catering (now known as STF Events & Catering) was born in 2005. With the freedom to create her own recipes and be her own boss, she flourished. Guests and clients took notice of how fresh and flavorful her dishes were and were soon asking for recipes. Once they figured out that a Chef never shares her recipes, they began asking where they could buy certain dishes and items. She began to think about how she could bring her food to a broader market.
The “original famous salsa” was the catalyst. With so many asking how they could buy it outside of catered events, she knew this would be her flagship. With the encouragement of her family, friends, and partner, she started to research how to bring her products to market. EVOriginals—Eleni Vavouris Originals—had been a dream of Eleni’s for over 10 years.
Plans were finally set in motion to make EVOriginals a reality in February 2016. Between February 2016 to June 2017, creating the name, the designs, and the products took place. For the first time ever, Eleni actually wrote down the recipes that she had so long just made by taste. She then set out to find a co-packer who could produce items for her, because she knew it would be too much with her catering schedule.
The folks at Nashville Kitchen and Cannery were the perfect fit. She met with Parker and Vance and knew right away that they would handle the ingredients and products with the same love and care she did. After several test runs together, Eleni and the NKC crew perfected 4 recipes: the original salsa, the spicy roja salsa, the chipotle peach sauce, and the Greek marinade. All EV Originals, made with attention and great care in small batches, with love! All delicious and unique.
The products are officially “Pick Tennessee” product and are currently available at the Murfreesboro Saturday Market, the Readyville Mill, Sperry’s Mercantile, Green Door Gourmet, and Batch Nashville.
STF Events and Catering has also been a member of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce for five years. It has been a mutually beneficial partnership. From partnering on events, participating at TASTE, corporate event client referrals, and putting Eleni in contact with retailers, the relationship with the LGBT Chamber has been invaluable. “I have found Lisa Howe and the Chamber to be a valuable resource helping me grow a small business,” said Eleni.
Chef Vavouris never thought she would end up as a small business owner, creating jobs in Middle Tennessee, with her own line of food products, but she is happy to share EVO with everyone. Eleni enjoys interacting with her clients and customers and feels like they can talk about food and life. She is only a year shy of her Master’s degree in counseling, after all.
For more information on EV Originals, visit Facebook.com/EVOriginals. Photos by Purple Dragonfly & Tom Blizzard Photography