COSTA RICA: THE WORLD'S BEST KEPT SECRET!
COSTA RICA: THE WORLD'S BEST KEPT SECRET!
June 8th, 2004
It is Tuesday early afternoon, June 8th, 2004. Mr. Goudas is absent today.
For the first time in years he is not coming to work because of a serious cold, which is forcing him to stay in bed.
Apparently the air condition in the plane got another victim.
This is a very rare occasion, as he has been sick before, but always present in the office. It seems it was about time that he took a sick day himself.
The phone rings and Mr. Goudas greets me on the line with a heavy voice.
I barely get an answer to my concerned question about how he is feeling, as he quickly mumbles a few words about being on medication and gaining his strength to get back here tomorrow.
He seems more concerned about working on something he's had in mind since he came back from Costa Rica, two days ago.
No surprises here! Mr. Goudas can't stop working even when he is sick in bed!
- 'Are you in front of the computer Sofia?' He asks eagerly.
- 'Of course Mr. Goudas, where else would I be on a working day?' I answer jokingly.
I smile and think to myself how my boss must always imagine me playing the piano if I'm not working.
It is my second profession after all; maybe I have mentioned more than once how it relaxes me to play some music after a long day...
PHOTO OF Sofia Papadhimitri.
- 'Mr. Goudas, what will it be, another business-related letter?'
I ask while at the same time preparing to take notes.
- 'No Sofia. Today I want to tell you all about the wonderful time I had in Costa Rica, how I loved the country, how I met so many amazing people, and how important this trip came out to be not only for Goudas Foods but also for me personally.
It was a great experience, and I want to put it down on paper right away!'
And this is how the writing of this article started, narrated in a slow and soft voice by Mr. Goudas, and often interrupted by coughing and sneezing.
I have never heard a person speak with such excitement about a business trip as my boss was speaking today, but I can definitely justify all of it after hearing all about his visit to Central America.
"A month ago, Mr. Itzamn Huelat from Procomer called asking for an appointment with me. Procomer is a representative company of Costa Rica in Canada.
We met for dinner at the Pantheon Restaurant and I also had the opportunity to meet the angel that was accompanying him, his wife.
Mr. Itzamn Huelat officially invited me to participate in the Chamber of Commerce and give a speech for the CACIA organization, which represents farmers, canners, and other related businesses in Costa Rica.
I don't usually travel abroad for business purposes.
Among my reasons are also my three dear pets, Koukla, Irma, and Tiger, which are very attached to me and I avoid leaving them alone.
'Yes Mr. Goudas, I know exactly what you mean! Koukla especially was very depressed all week', I say as I remember the poor dog sitting for hours, looking and weeping from time to time.
- 'Yes, this is what happens…' he says with a distant voice, obviously thinking about where he left off his narration.
"As I was saying, I have had several other invitations over tha years, like for example from Fidel Castro in Cuba, or the King of Thailand.
In Thailand, I am the larger importer of foods and fruits to Canada, and the King's daughter has great input in the agricultural issues of the country.
However, I had never accepted any of these invitations, until Mr. Huelat came around; he and his wife managed to persuade me to make this trip, and arrangements were made for me to leave Toronto on Tuesday, June 1st.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was greeted by attaché's from Procomer, CACIA, and other government organizations.
Travelling with me was Niki Stamatakos, my 'right hand' in business.
Also, Mr. Sultan Ajani left, a supplier of mine, and a personal friend, was waiting for me at the airport.
Mr. Ajani was there particularly to assist me with the language and business issues that I would face.
One of the people greeting me at the airport and showing me around, as well as the man that arranged all my meetings, was Ramon Luis Montero.
Another person I met arriving in Costa Rica was Irving Soto, the Sectorial Promotional Manager of Procomer.
We were led to one of the nicest hotels in the country, named Herradura, where we would be meeting factory owners from all over the country, who had already arranged appointments with us and were bringing samples of their products to our meeting.
Wednesday started very early in the morning, as we began our meetings, each arranged for half an hour duration, and going straight until late at night.
When we were done, we finally arrived at the Monastery for dinner.
Naturally I was expecting to see monks around us as we get in the Monastery, but it turns out that this was just a name, and the only 'monk' that we actually saw was a doll sitting by a piano and dressed like a monk.
The Monastery was a beautiful place, the meals were delicious, but above all, the view of San José was magnificent!
On Thursday, we attended more meetings with owners and general managers of many Costa Rican companies.
We also visited several production plants, including one of the largest cookie and biscuit manufacturers in the world, Riviana Pozuelo, as well as one of the largest sugar companies in the world, Laica.
We also had a tour inside the Tunatun Tuna Canning Factory.
The meetings and tours lasted for several hours, and we finally arrived at the Conference Hall building in the afternoon.
The first thing we saw while entering the building were various exhibitions of products from several companies, as chocolate manufacturers, canned fish processors, and other food related companies.
As I was one of the three guest speakers, I entered the Conference room and walked straight to the podium.
Looking around I realized that the hall was well attended; there must have been approximately two or three hundred people attending the event.
Although I had prepared a speech, at the last minute I decided not to read it, but instead talk 'ad libitum'.
Mr. Goudas Speech in Costa Rica at CACIA Conference June 2004
Towards the end, I expressed my appreciation for the invitation and the opportunity I was given to see this beautiful country and meet such wonderful people; the audience had a very excited reaction to my compliments.
I also gave credit to several people, including the President of Costa Rica, the honourable Abel Pacheco.
After my speech, and as I was leaving the hall, I realized that at least a hundred people were waiting for me outside, wanting to thank me for being there and to congratulate me for my speech.
One of them actually commented on my speech by saying that he felt "as you were in my shoes".
Despite my busy schedule, I ended up arranging more meetings with some of them, as they were persistent to have some of my time.
Contrary to what some people believe, Dole is not only the company that produces canned pineapple.
In Costa Rica the company cultivates fruits and vegetables, makes fruit salads, and packages and exports them to the United States for various airlines, hotels, and other organizations.
The general manager of Dole, Alvaro Valverde Robert, is an exceptional businessman.
A cocktail party followed the CACIA meeting, where I had the opportunity to meet more interesting business people.
Most of my Friday was dedicated to visiting one of the finest manufacturers of pepper sauces in the world, Kamuk, under the direction of one of the best businessmen I know, Antonio Esquivel.
We arrived there early in the afternoon, passed the security gates (which to my surprise were present in every factory I visited), toured the factory, and finally entered the processing and packaging area of the plant.
I was amazed with the sanitary procedures they take at this point: Before entering this area, the workers shower, wear boots and uniforms similar to astronauts, and only when perfectly clean and sanitized, they finally get to work.
This is how the best pepper sauce, under the Mr. Goudas brand, is produced.
After the tour, we had a meeting in the laboratory of the plant with one of the finest 'pepperologists' in the world, Victor Rugama.
This title, 'pepperologist', was given to him by the company because of his complicated and highly specialized position; he is the person that knows the exact composition, proper color, taste, and texture that the pepper sauce must have to be the best.
For dinner we visited a native restaurant, where I asked to eat exactly what people in the tables around us were having.
The table was filled with various dishes, including rice, black beans, fish slices, shredded carrots, and a delicious dip made of black bean paste, parsley, garlic, and oil.
For dessert we had a slice of cake made from Tres Leches (Three Milks).
PHOTO OF SPYROS PETER GOUDAS AND PANOS GOUDAS
As the date was June 4th, my son's birthday, I got up during dinner and raised a toast to my beloved son, Panos Goudas, who now became 25 years old.
I wanted to let everyone know that despite the fact that I was away from my company for five whole days, I knew that it was in good hands!
At dinner I also met the king of rice in Costa Rica, Mr. Mario Rimolo.
I considered it an honour to be having dinner and discussing with a man that had so much in common with me.
Saturday began at 5 a.m. with more meetings next to the swimming pool.
One of my appointments was with the manufacturers of nectars and soft drinks in Costa Rica, with whom I will now be collaborating again in the production of the Guanabana and the Passion Fruit products.
Another meeting was with the general manager of Dole, with whom we have a lot in common, as age, and quality production of ginger for example.
Dole originally produced fruits and vegetables, but we agreed that now the company will be producing onions and ginger for Goudas Foods.
With the guidance of our 'pepperologist', Mr. Rugama, we will be making the best ginger sauce and onion sauce ever! plus more products.
I assured Dole's general manager that there is definitely a large market of Oriental customers in Canada.
When we completed all the meetings, it was finally time for us to have some fun! Two natives, Juan Rafael, our tour guide, and Javier, the driver, were going to take us to the active volcano Arenal.
On the way to the volcano we made several stops to see the coffee beans, the tapioca and papaya trees, and the bread fruit cultivations.
One of our stops was in an area called Sarzero, where we visited the San Rafael - Arcangel Church.
The church was surrounded by a beautiful garden, one of the most amazing I've seen in my life.
This garden was created in 1960 by Evangelista Blanca, who after all this period of time finally received, just last week, the Honor Certificate of Culture.
Our next stop was in the area called San Carlo, where we saw the Iguana on the trees; the natives commonly call these animals "small dinosaurs", they do not eat people, each male has two reproduction organs and four wives, and this is how they keep multiplying.
At this point, our tour guide talked to us about the Bull Fighting traditions of Costa Rica; I was surprised and actually shocked to hear that the Costa Rican tradition has the bull killing the bull-fighter, while in Spain the bull-fighter kills the bull in the end.
We also saw the 'street dogs', those wild dogs that everyone was warning me to never get near to.
Of course, warnings could never keep me away from the animals that I love.
So I went near them after all, stroke them, and played with them, leaving everyone else speechless.
No one could believe how such wild dogs were being so nice to me, but I thought to myself that they must have picked up the smell of my Koukla and Irma, and realized that I was a friend of animals.
At various points on our way we kept seeing small vendors selling natives' favourites like pita with honey, and water apples.
As we were feeling already hungry, we decided to make a stop at a native restaurant, where we were served fried plantains and yucca.
I also learned how to make Costa Rican coffee.
At this point, I gave my two wind-coats to our tour guide and the driver, and they put them on right away with pride.
Since the Mr. Goudas logo is printed in the back, they said that "now Mr. Goudas is officially here".
Finally, at 4 p.m. we arrived at the volcano viewing area, where we were given bracelets to wear on our wrists; I was told that these bracelets serve for identification purposes, in case the volcano explodes.
I was actually told more than that, a terrifying story, about how 100 people died years ago when the volcano exploded while they were visiting the area.
We were also given a towel, and after we changed into our swimming suits, we dived into the medicinal mineral waters that are naturally created on the foot of the volcano.
The setting was breathtaking; water falling like falls and getting hotter the closer it was to the volcano, while the nature around and the thick steam created from the hot water gave us all the feeling of being in a dreamy land.
I thought to myself that maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to get in the water, given my serious accident of breaking my leg years ago.
To my amusement though, as I was coming out of the water, everything else was aching but my leg was feeling better than ever!
We sat down for dinner, always looking out of the window, hoping to see the lava coming out of the volcano.
It was our bad luck though that the weather was so heavily cloudy that we couldn't see anything at all.
Early morning on Sunday we got on the plane, heading back to Toronto.
Mr. Antonio Esquivel was very kind to accompany us to the airport, even though it was 5 a.m.
As the plane is departing, I am saying my farewell to this beautiful country of Costa Rica, its friendly people, and all those experiences I had in such a few days, that left me with the best impressions and memories, but at the same time made my visit very productive.
"This country is one of the world's best secrets", I said to myself.
Looking out of the window, I thought back to that point in my speech, where I surprised everybody with the courage and boldness of my words.
As I told them, "you are nobody, just a single dot in the map, if you are not known outside of Costa Rica.
No matter how great your production process is here, and how high the quality of your products, you need to make your product line recognizable to the rest of the world.
I am here to do this for you starting with Canada".
The plane flies higher and higher in the sky, and I look down to the Earth, where Costa Rica is now becoming smaller and smaller in my eyes.
With a melancholic smile, I look at that small place down there, as Central America is taking its shape in front of my eyes, and see how it now has become a small dot in the map...
This article was written by Sofia Papadhimitri based on Mr. Goudas (Spyros Peter Goudas) narration.
Sofia Papadhimitri was also instrumental in documenting for Mr. Goudas, one of the most beautiful stories ever written about animals:The Koukla Story
June 8th, 2004
Trip to volcano was possible through Juan Rafoel at email@example.com.
The phone number: (506)3734133
The following article summarizes not only Mr. Goudas experiences in Costa Rica, but also one of his employees impressions, as he himself wrote them down, about the trip to this recently discovered world.
Let s see what John had to say:
Costa Rica: The New Opportunity!
Mr. Goudas was invited to Costa Rica through the Cacia Organization to give a speech to business and factory owners. Well yes, he gave the speech and came back.
Now we have to go through some tough times with the reality in the logistics, labour regulations, packaging processes, distribution, promotion, sales, you name it! And why?
Because he made one single trip, with the initial purpose to just give an innocent speech, and he came back with a list of a dozen distribution companies, producing more than 50 products, which all wanted to be introduced to Canada by Goudas Foods and they all wanted to start this international collaboration right away!
No one ever thought of us poor employees who unsuspectedly greeted Mr. Goudas back, thinking that our everyday routine could not be disturbed by one small innocent trip.
We actually thought that we were going to send him out of the office for once, to get some fresh air, and change the scenery, have a little bath in the mineral waters of the volcano area, and come back to his everyday activities.
Boy we were wrong! One thing is for sure; from now on, no one will ever try to convince him to take a trip again!
Anyway... I admit that this visit to Costa Rica was not only full of opportunities, but also surprises.
After speaking with Mr. Goudas about it, I was amazed to hear all the stories.
One of the funniest things that happened is that he mentioned on his speech that he saw a coconut tree for the first time in his life.
Yet he is the largest importer of coconut milk, coconut powder, and coconut water in Canada!
To everyones surprise, it is because in those countries, everyone has a coconut tree in their backyard, and nobody thought of manufacturing and exporting to countries who love the products but who don t have a tree in their backyard.
As the end result, Costa Rica factories are producing and export on a big scale, or at least they try to.
Another thing I found very funny was this picture of Mr. Goudas with two Costa Rican policemen.
I believe most of you know that to be able to join the police force in Canada, you have to be above the 5 feet 8 inches or above.
But apparently, the standards are different in Costa Rica.
As Mr. Goudas himself proudly says, for the first time in my life, I realized I was taller than the police officer!
And to think that I am only 5 feet 7 tall! What a great feeling!
I still laugh when I remember his sparkling eyes and that wide smile, while proudly saying these words. Well, even the not so tall people deserve a break, don t you think
Speaking of police, I remember how Mr. Goudas shared another funny incident with the audience.
He spoke about how he was warned to take care not only of his belongings, but actually his life itself, while visiting Costa Rica.
Apparently, some people like to exagerate with their fears about foreign countries.
However, Mr. Goudas noted with a smile that not only he never felt in danger in this country, but he actually loved to meet the Costa Ricans and he enjoyed their friendliness. In his words,
despite all the warnings,
I came here to see wonderful people and a wonderful country!
Since his speech was very well accepted, all the magazines published an article about his life story.
Even the most popular Costa Rican magazine, the Alimentaria, dedicated some pages to an article about Mr. Goudas highly appreciated visit to the country and his widely enjoyed and valued speech.
In fact, in several landmarks and tourist areas, there are signs with words like Mr. Goudas was here or Mr. Goudas dined here as well as posters with his picture.
During his stay in Costa Rica, Mr. Goudas also visited many different restaurants for their local specialty foods.
The restaurants always served two items in a little plate.
One of them was a black bean paste, and the other was a green mix of some kind.
His curiosity of this green paste grew with every meal, and he soon wanted to find out exactly what it was.
Not only did Mr. Goudas find out what that green paste was, but he even managed to find out what was the proper English name for it.
He talked to some of the finest chefs in Costa Rica and was able to make a recipe on how to prepare it. The taste of this green paste was different from restaurant to restaurant.
After consulting some chefs in Costa Rica, finally he realized that this green paste is nothing but parsley, minced garlic, mixed with vinegar.
Mr. Goudas thought it would be a good idea to take this tasty appetizer and make it a magnificent product by adding vegetable oil and cane vinegar instead of processed vinegar.
He also thought that the product should be in uniform pieces for each ingredient.
This magnificent product finally arrived in Canada under the Mr. Goudas brand, and we all have the opportunity to taste the wonders of Costa Rican chefs.
It is naturally expected that many will try to imitate this paste, as it is obviously going to become very popular in the food market.
Goudas Foods does expect a group of imitators to come out trying with their versions labelled Managers Choice, Supervisors Pick, my Mom,s Old Recipe, and who knows what else!
This product is not only to be enjoyed by 4 million Costa Ricans; it is meant to be enjoyed by the whole world! No wonder Mr. Goudas has been chosen as the Costa Rican Food Ambassador to the rest of the world.
For anyone who likes parsley, and is immune to garlic, I recommend that you try the Mr. Goudas CHIMICHURRI; it s the best the world has to offer.
Although, the name sounds Japanese, the taste has originated from Central America.
You will love it too!
When I asked for someone to bring me a jar so that I can see what this crazy named product is all about, I soon found myself holding the jar in one hand and a pita bread on the other.
I quickly figured out how to connect these two and to which direction.
Believe me, the jar was emptied before you could say chimichurri! Mr. Goudas was trying to take a picture of me eating the Chimichurri, spread nicely on pita bread with olive oil, and I tried to stop him, but my craving for Chimichurri was too much to make any major moves.
If you ask me how it tastes, I think my picture says it all!