We all have something that adds an extra flavor to our life, like a passionate pursuit that brings a sense of fulfillment, an energy that ignites us, a dream that shapes itself into a purpose – if we look closely, it’s a tiny spark that lets itself out to become a flame.
Smita was born and raised in Zambia, South Africa, and England, and calls Atlanta, Georgia home for more than 30-years now. Smita holds a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and Cornell University. Her husband Dilip Daya, an Industrial Chemist and a certified Olive Oil Sommelier from University of California-Davis at Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences is originally from Mozambique. When people are meant to cross our paths, there is always a reason, a pattern behind. Smita and her husband lived next to an amazing Italian family (the Calamai family) for 16 years. During that period, they were introduced to freshly pressed extra virgin olive oils, straight from the Cantina. This laid the foundation of love for gourmet extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and super spices. Today, Olea Oliva! which means “The Olive Tree” sells the finest extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from all over the world.
Passion is all about ‘the journey’. It’s not about investing in the result, or the recognition, the acceptance that comes with it; it’s about investing in the doubts, the learning, the process. It’s about investing ‘in self’. When I asked Smita about her journey that seemed to me a monumental shift from Wall Street closings to creative and healthy cooking, she said, “I am always learning, it’s a continuous process for me to evolve. I read, I ensure to know what’s trending, I love to travel and discover new dishes. I prepare myself for challenges that could be elementary to this process. I always look forward to bringing meaning to my business and offer the services of what I discover, for e.g. – I am in the United States which has the highest obesity count, I keep asking myself – how should I educate people to eat healthy yet flavorful? In a world where fast food and convenient foods devoid of nutrients have become the norm, we feel that offering kids and parents, simple and quick cooking tools and techniques is more important than ever for a healthier lifestyle.” Smita encourages the use of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegars, herbs, super spices like turmeric, ginger, fenugreek and anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial spices in cooking. And most importantly focusing on making tasty cuisine using properly cooked fresh, seasonal ingredients that nourish and boost your energy levels instead of depleting them. Ask her about the benefits and she would run the gamut of them, “When I cook, I don’t use preservatives, additives or artificial flavors and keep the salt to a minimum, that’s just for taste! I use a lot of extra virgin olive oil, because it’s great for your brain, it keeps one focused, it’s heart-healthy and good for your body, hair and skin. It’s about being mindfulness and it all comes down to habits formed early in life and changing them into a mindful habit that feed one’s entire system.”
No journey is complete without potential barriers ready to block one’s way forward. What’s interesting to see is – who wins! “When people walk into my cooking workshop or even my store, they come with a lot of reservation. So, my challenge has been to open their mind and have them look at a healthier perspective of the same dish. I stay enthusiastic and with my enthusiasm and creative ideas, I break their reservations. In fact, this helps me educate and inspire them! And by inspiring them, I hope I can lead them to new creativity, success in their health and joy in their kitchen.” While we are all equipped to face challenges, sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of commotions that test our resilience. In those moments, all we need is someone to say, “You can do it. Don’t stop!” I asked Smita, who’s that person in her life and she said, “Oh! Hands down, I get unconditional support from my husband. He is the love of my life. When I left my corporate job, he was there for me at every step. Encouraging me and challenging me to “do what I do best”. Today, he helps me in the store whenever he has the time, on the back-end and he did my website too! I have been so blessed to have such wonderful support from my family, friends and our local community as I forge my own path and follow my passion!”
Smita was honored to present a culinary demonstration at Atlanta Foodservice Expo. on Sept 18 & 19, of 2017 and 2018 hosted by the American Culinary Federation. On Feb 2, 2018, she was invited to teach and present at the Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia and has been invited back in 2019. Smita loves to share her passion for healthy cooking at the local senior centers, fitness centers, Churches and YMCA’s health and well-being programs and activities that promote wellness. Community development and co-partnering with local businesses is very important for Smita. She loves to give back to her community. She has recently authored a cookbook which is a compilation of the recipes from her workshops over the last two years – “An Odyssey of Flavors”.
To know more about Smita, visit her @ Olea Oliva!