Tina and Olivia Webb give us the scoop on Greece's food and beverage industry.
Tina Webb along with her daughter, Olivia, agreed to meet us at Pantopolio Mesogiakis Diatrofis (Mediterranean Diet Grocery Store) in central Athens and discuss a little bit about their work as accredited food stylists in the Greek food and beverage industry.
For those not familiar with the world of food styling, there’s not much difference to the bare bones of the world of fashion, in the way that each image is professionally styled to be as desirable and visually satiating as possible; to almost evoke the sense of taste through vision.
Tina’s introduction to the world of food styling began in London, during a period of study at Le Cordon Bleu and was a result of the desire to take her cooking knowledge in a more artistic direction. Years later, upon her return to Greece, the switch to food styling from marketing became a reality. Starting in television, Tina found herself to be the second person in the role in Greece, almost monopolising the market.
Now, 25 years on, Tina has bears no regrets, “waking up every morning - there was something new for me.” Apart from the fresh and exciting challenges she faced everyday, the opportunity to network with chefs both international and domestic was unparalleled in an age before the advent of the internet. The clear benefit being the ability to keep abreast of “trends and attitudes in the food industry when working with big multinationals or smaller Greek companies.”
Her 25 years of experience have seen Tina travel extensively, which she finds essential to her role as a food stylist; the ability to see each plate or product, to ”touch it, taste it, eat it” is incomparable. Tina then uses this opportunity and her in-depth knowledge to consider the industry as a larger whole by asking “what the new trend is? Why we have moved on from one method of cooking? Why we are going back to our roots?” Each dish poses fresh questions that keep her ahead of her competition.
“what the new trend is? why we have moved on from one method OF cooking? why we are going back to our roots?”
The advent of the economic crisis and Tina’s vast knowledge of Greece’s food industry allowed her to pinpoint the reappearance of small producers on the scene, “which hadn’t happened for years.” The flow of new ideas had become stagnant, but the economic challenges many faced birthed “new products from people making interesting moves.”
It seems that the new businesses created a lot of inspiration and opportunity in the face of difficult times. In agreement, Olivia chimes in, as the reason for her return to Athens from London after a stint in the world of television, food and media at large, was "to be part of the creative boom coming through the crisis.”
"To be part of the creative boom coming through the crisis.”
Based in the capital, Tina is aware of its drawbacks, “I hate the traffic,” but, “Athens is home.” The pros seem to outweigh the cons as she is “happy to speak to people here - they inform me of new products I don't know. I like that by now I have met so many people that I can call and ask their opinions about new products and I can enjoy talking and working with them.”
During our talk Tina’s dedication to her career is evident in the way she speaks about food, and this dedication translates easily into refuting a general international misconception of Greece, “we are hard workers even though they say the opposite abroad. We are passionate about what we do. We love food, but we haven't been very good at exporting our love of food. I find it really upsetting that we have so many drinks - wines - and we are only known for ouzo.” The lack of exports she logically attributes to the use of smaller scale production methods as one of the main reasons, but her belief is that Greek produce is of superior quality, “we have some products that are really unique. Olives for example, we have fantastic olives, but if you go abroad the chefs are putting Spanish olives on the table.”