As if on cue, a couple sent an invitation to Beleri and her husband, having heard about their work in Boat Quay.
“They invited me and my husband to their house and asked me to cook for them. It was like a game – I played my last card. So I went over and said, ‘Hi I’m the chef’ and the woman said ‘okay, here’s the kitchen’. I made traditional Greek dips, seafood and meat. It wasn’t stressful at all,” Beleri said.
A year later, Fotia opened up in a small space along Club Street. It did well and soon expanded into a 150-seater space on Duxton Hill.
There, Beleri works side by side with her husband at a restaurant they can call their own. She has a team of 12 staff, who call her “Mama”.
“When I was rising up the ranks, I had to work 10 times harder and clocked in more hours than my male counterparts. It shouldn’t be that way. I believe we can change the bias,” said Beleri, saying that success in the kitchen simply means being organised, systematic and disciplined.
Although Beleri thinks work-life balance remains a “luxury for the F&B business”, they have managed to at least integrate the two.
She video-calls her daughter daily and every Sunday, Fratzeska – who is now eight – joins them at Fotia, where she has a cubby house from which she sells lemonade.
For her and every young woman out there, Beleri has some specific advice.
“As much as I had wished for more support, I believe my encounters in life have groomed me into who I am today. In the face of failure or bias, observe, listen and improve. Experiment and try harder because the best way to break bias is to prove yourself right.”