Story by Dami Fadipe
Photo by Quin Hauck
It’s no surprise that the author and creator of FoodByMaria, Maria Koutsogiannis, is busier than ever before. Her new cookbook, Mindful Vegan Meals, was voted the best cookbook of June 2018 by Indigo, and she’s gained the attention of The Globe and Mail, as well as various other sites and papers, illuminating her awards.
The blog FoodByMaria debuted on Oct. 1, 2015, and, since then, Koutsogiannis has been in the midst of a snowball effect that she could not have predicted.
“First it was the blog, then the Instagram blew up, then people began noticing me on the street,” she recalls.
“Growing up, I always noticed that if I did something that I loved, I was good at it.”
This comes across in Koutsogiannis’ work not just as a recipe creator, but also as a photographer, food stylist, writer, nutritional consultant, and fitness enthusiast.
Although there are multiple platforms under the banner of FoodByMaria, Koutsogiannis describes the concept herself as “a safe space where people can discuss, learn and feel inspired by food.”
It’s also a great way for others to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet with flair.
Koutsogiannis was influenced by her grandma and her mother growing up.
“My grandma lived in Greece but she would come and visit us often,” she recalls.
She also attributes her Greek heritage and her own intrigue as powerful motivators for her work and her inspiration for recipes.
Koutsogiannis moved to Calgary when she was 18 years old and learned very quickly to be smart with her money as it was too easy to “spend more money on alcohol than food.”
She would frequently watch the Food Network while she was in university.
“I was always intrigued by stirring, and cutting and peeling [food],” she says.
However, her eating disorder prevented her from pursuing her interests with food for a long time; Koutsogiannis had bulimia for six years.
“[FoodByMaria] came from a place that was very dark,” she remembers.
When coupled with her eating disorder, fitness made her feel “body dysmorphic.”
In general, the themes she aims to project with her blog are those of fitness, health, diet and general questions that people tend to be too embarrassed to ask. She emphasizes that people should do what their body tells them to do.
Koutsogiannis describes the process of creating her new recipe book as “stressful but magical.” She faced struggles with matching someone else’s timeline, among other issues.
“Apparently it’s normal to go through a very low, low period when writing a cookbook,” she says with a laugh. “But it was magical. I was writing something that I had only dreamt about [before then]. To watch it come to life is interesting because you doubt yourself through the whole process.”
When she got the first copy, she was “scared shitless,” but after receiving a bit of validation from the people reading it, she explains that she became more confident and happy with the book.
Mindful Vegan Meals can be purchased at Indigo and Costco, as well as online from Amazon. FoodByMaria also has a recipes app, available in the App Store and Google Play.