Goudas brings Bulgaria to Canada
In early July 2004, Mr. Goudas was thinking seriously of importing a list of ready-to-eat foods from Bulgaria.
He had already made contacts with people in Bulgaria from the food business, and he had started discussions with Mr. Theologo Kangelidis about the import of some foods.
Samples were sent and tasted, and communication had begun on producing the best quality products and creating the best looking labels for them.
But Mr. Goudas wanted to know more; he wanted to know how those products were produced, where and under what conditions.
He also wanted to meet the people personally and discuss with them about the production process, the methods, the conditions, and the effort put into production.
He wanted to make sure that the quality of these products was the highest, and their taste was the best!
This is why, one morning of July, he decided to send one of his employees, Sofia Papadimitri, to represent Goudas Foods in Bulgaria, and bring back to Canada all the impressions of the encounter with the Bulgarian business people and the areas of production. This is how she herself narrated the details of her trip in an article that contains not only business issues, but also cultural impressions:
"It is August 8th, 2004. The sun is already burning up in the sky although it is only 9am.
Me, Mr. Theologos Kangelidis, his wife Vania, his son Vasilis, and his friend and business partner in the Greek market, Mr. Giannis Spiropoulos, are all sitting in the back yard, having breakfast and enjoying the beautiful view of a Bulgarian hill spreading in front of our eyes.
Vania has not only filled the table with all sorts of sweet and salty foods, but she has also made some delicious frappe coffees for us, exactly what we needed to get the day started.
The trip of the day starts around 10am, and our destination is the okra fields. Mr. Kangelidis and Mr. Spiropoulos are both designated drivers, periodically switching seats in front of the stirring wheel.
I sit in the passenger seat and I cannot take my eyes off the endless sunflower fields.
After driving for a long time between those yellow fields, we decide to make a quick stop and take some pictures among those beautiful flowers; they are now mature enough, exposing their black seeds ready to be collected.
We get back in the car determined to not make another stop until we get to the okra fields.
But soon this plan is changed again, as the sunflowers end, and beautiful fields with dark-pink flowers begin.
Each of us has one personal guess about which flower that is: I insist that they are roses,
Mr. Spiropoulos is pretty sure they are eggplant flowers, and Mr. Kangelidis says they are cotton flowers.
Such a debate calls for a close-up inspection; as we walk closer to the field, we realize that it wasn't really smart to argue with the owner of one of the most successful companies in Bulgaria, Elvira.
Mr. Kangelidis knew from experience how to recognize a cotton field, and I laugh at my stubbornness as I take another shot of the view.
After the long drive through the numerous sunflower, cotton, and some cherry fields,
we arrive at one of the places where okra is gathered and prepared for production.
I have never seen such widespread fields, stretching as far as the eye goes, creating a deep-green horizon.
The okra plant is very beautiful; it is rich in leaves, one or more meters tall, and it blossoms with a beautiful yellow flower.
Alongside of the fields, there was the camp of the pickers.
This was a group of approximately 40 people who worked on the preparation of the okra.
They star picking up the okra from the fields at very early hours in the morning.
The okra plant grows very fast, at an hourly speed. Goudas Foods has given specifications for the size of the okra to be picked, and this is because the smaller okras have a much better taste.
For this reason, the okra has to be picked as early as 4am in the morning, while it is still small.
After the okra fruit is gathered, the pickers cut the stem with special scissors, to prevent the juice from running out which would make the okra dark in a few hours.
The ready okras are then weighted and set aside for transport to the factory.
The contact with the Bulgarian pickers of the okra was one of the most unique experiences of my life! They welcomed us to their workplace and politely asked us to take our tour around without disturbing the people working.
I was amazed to see how they never stopped working, despite our presence.
They kept the workplace clean, as well as themselves, as they would wash hands and feet every time they had to leave the working area and then come back. Their living conditions were extremely simple: a tent and some blankets on the ground were they slept.
And despite all that, despite their hard work, their poor living conditions, they were happy people, always with a smile on their faces.
As the parents worked, the pickers' children played around the camp, trying to keep as quiet as possible. Those kids captured me completely; they had beautiful little faces, the warmest smiles, and the shiniest sparkle in their eyes.
They were really excited to see me take pictures of the fields and the camp, and some of them posed for me in front of the camera.
As we were getting back in the car, they came to great us and thanked me for the pictures.
I will never forget these people, their warmness, their sincere smiles, and their simplicity...
For a good half an hour, we remain quiet in the car, as we are deeply touched from our visit to the pickers' camp and our contact with those people.
The first one to finally talk is Mr. Kangelidis, proposing to extend our trip and visit Filipoupoli.
This is an ancient city built from Great Alexander's father, Filipos.
The Greek element is visible throughout the city, where one can visit the ancient theater of the emperor Trajan, the theater of Filipos, and other ancient ruins where one can read Greek names and words carved on the marble.
As we start heading back for Mr. Kangelidis house, it starts raining, first a few drops but soon a heavy rain that slows us down and reduces visibility.
The ride back now takes longer than expected, and we finally arrive around 11pm.
To our surprise, not only Vania and Vangelis were awake, but they were also waiting for us to have dinner together. Mr. Kangelidis' older son, Emos, had also come to visit with his fiancée, and so the group grew bigger.
We all sit around the table and dishes with all the variety of Greek foods start coming out of the kitchen: Eggplant Imam, Eggplant Puree, Tzatziki, Taramosalata, Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce, Ntolmadakia, Okra with Tomatoes, Makedonikos, Pickles, Green Beans (Fasolakia), Stifado, Stuffed Peppers, Stuffed Tomatoes, and also Bulgarian Honey.
One dish is more delicious than the other; I can't decide which one I like more! To my surprise, I even like the Eggplant Imam, although I had never wanted to eat eggplant before in my life!
These were all foods that Mr. Kangelidis produces in his factory, or in collaboration with other local producers.
Trying the sweet velvet-texture honey, I smile to the thought that tomorrow we will visit the actual beehives where this honey is coming from!
After dinner, and although it is 1:00am, we get back to work again.
It is time to visit the Elvira factory, as the night shift has already started at midnight.
This period they are working on preparing the Eggplant Imam and the Eggplant Puree, under the Goudas brand.
Walking inside the factory, one can notice right away how clean and organized every area is.
The workers, the majority of them women, great us with a nod of the head, as they keep working vigorously.
We walk through the various machines as Mr. Kangelidis explains the function of each.
As the smell of the baked eggplant is really strong, he takes me to another area, where the dill is kept.
He opens one of the barrels and the room fills with the freshest smell of dill; Mr. Kangelidis explains how he uses this spice on most of his foods.
It was both very pleasant to smell the dill, and unbelievable to learn that this spice can be kept on those barrels for up to two years, without loosing its freshness! I called that the secret Kangelidis method!
After just a few hours sleep, we are ready to start our second day driving throughout Bulgaria.
Our first stop is the Church of Sipka, a church built in 1902 and renovated by Russian architects after World War II.
The Church is now a monument for the war heroes, both Russian and Bulgarian that died in WWII; it has five domes covered in gold, and it is also a historical museum inside.
One can only feel in awe when visiting this grandiose monument!
The trip continues through the mountains; after another hour of endless turns through narrow streets, we make another stop, this time to eat something special: Buffalo Yogurt with Honey!
This was a light and refreshing breakfast, which kept us going strong through the rest of our trip.
Although I liked the Buffalo Yogurt very much, and I recommended to Mr. Goudas to import it to Canada, it is unfortunately impossible, due to the Canadian Dairy Commission Regulations, which prevent the import of dairy products to Canada.
A couple of hours later we arrive in Ternovo, a beautiful graphic city which used to be the capital of Bulgaria.
The walk through the city is very short, as the rain gets heavier and we have a long way to go in wet clothes.
Late in the afternoon we finally arrive at a little town named Targoviste, where we meet with the beekeeper, Mr. Stefan Kurdov. He takes us in his car and gives us a very interesting tour through various areas where the beehives are kept, as he talks to us about how the best honey in Bulgaria, and possibly in the whole world, is made.
He then offers to show us how beehives are opened to extract the honey; this was both very interesting and dangerous to watch from such a close distance, as I didn't have a protective suit to wear, or a face net to protect from bee-stings, but the pictures I managed to take are worth it all!
Our next stop is the honey factory, where the honey was separated from the wax and prepared for shipment.
Mr. Goudas had asked me to inspect closely the honey production, as he wanted to ensure that the quality of honey produced is really the best!
There were at least twelve kinds of honey produced (depending on what flowers, trees, or fruit the bees feed from) waiting to be shipped to Sofia, where they go through the final purification process and then they are mixed together to create the final honey for Goudas Foods.
I did not manage to reach to a decision about which kind of honey I liked best although I tried them all and enjoyed each one of them very much!
It is now getting really dark and we are all thinking about dinner.
Mr. Kurdov takes us to dinner at a traditional restaurant, where each one of us tries a different Bulgarian dish, like for example Pita with melted Cheese, Souvlaki on a Sword, Chicken on a Clay Pot, Breaded Home-made Potatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, etc.
After the delicious dinner, we head back immediately as I am about to catch my flight very early in the morning.
At the early hours of the morning, as I am leaving the Kangelidis residence, I am surrounded by the pleasant and exhilarating scent of roses, coming from the numerous rose fields in the area.
Bulgaria is internationally known for its production of rose oil and rose extract, all coming from those fields that were so fragrant that early morning.
I left this country and the welcoming Kangelidis family with the best memories carved in my mind, and with the happy thought that most of the products I had the chance to watch as they were being produced and tasted for myself, are soon coming to Canada, to enrich our table!"
Note from Bernadette:
Mr. Goudas was very impressed with the Bulgarian experience and article written by Sofia Papadimitri who at the time was general manager for the FlyerMall.com enterprise and also his assistant.
Sophia was also instrumental in assisting Mr. Goudas in the writing of the wonderful article, The Koukla Story, about his pet French poodle Koukla which has since been translated into several languages, including Greek, Spanish, Italian, Sri Lankan, French, Chinese, Korean and others.
The Koukla Story has also been narrated my Jasse McDonald who has an amazing voice and is available in audio format.
The original Koulka Story has been expanded to include a story about Irma, the Irish Setter and Tiger, the Cat and subsequently turned into a book called, My Pets - Koukla, Irma and Tiger.
The Koukla Story is considered to be one of the best articles written about pets and is a favourite with pet lovers and kids.
Sophia was also instrumental in assisting Mr. Goudas in
the writing Experiencing Colombia,
as seen through the eyes of Spyros Peter Goudas.
The Government of Columbia thought it was the best best book ever written about Colombia by a foreigner and has posted it in the official website of Columbia.
In addition to the above, she also assisted in writing the book,
Costa Rica, the World's Best Kept Secret,
which also, according to the Costa Rican government happens to be one of the best books written about with small Central American country.
As a consequence of this experience and information provided by Sofia to Mr. Goudas, he engaged in business with Bulgaria and over the years have created some of the best ready-food meals the world has ever known.
As the years progressed, Mr. Goudas had an accident which caused him to become incapcitated with a back injury resulting in severe back pain and to complicate the situation further he developed Floaters in his eyes.
This misadventure is documented in the book,
Miracles Still Do Happen.
Theologos Kaneledis, the producer of the products from Bulgaria, wrote a Thank You letter to Mr. Goudas on the occasion of his 65th Birthday, the text of which is incorporated as follows:
My name is Theologos Kangelidis, my English is poorest than semi poor. But my will to express my opinion for Mr. S. Peter Goudas is very strong and I will try to do it anyway I can. I hope I will be understandable.
Before about a few years, I was so much disappointed of my life and so tired from all the bad moments I had with my work( after few years of hard work I had set up a little factory for canned food) in Bulgaria( I am Greek) I was looking to the net for some companies to collaborate with and send to them some samples…
As I search I found a website called www.goudasfoods.com.
I wrote a letter to him and after a while I had already an answer which left me surprised. How fast this man reply to me although he was very busy with all his products.
After a long conversation with the man, I left with the opinion that he is a very clever hard working man looking for perfection for his products.
But all this was like a fairy tale for me, because he said to me that he will advance money and raw materials to me…you see I was in a difficult time…
NO ONE WILL BELIVE IT SINCE WE DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER!!!
The next morning they call me from my bank that an amount of US dollars has arrived from Canada to my account.
I don’t believe it! Yes, it’s true!!!
After a short time, a whole load from Mr. Goudas raw material to begin production of his products arrived in Bulgaria for me.
Since that day till today, me and Peter have produce more than 35 articles under Mr. Goudas brand, all of them under his straight observe and opinion (you see, he wants the best in the world and not less) and we are good friends more than business partners.
Honestly, I am 45 years old and I have seen many things in my life, for first time I have met a person like him.
Words are very poor to express this entire phenomenon called Peter Goudas! He is a whole catalogue from qualities
Honest, hard working, human, sensitive, clever, hard to the difficulties of life, funny when he has the time, simple and thousands more…If he was not near to me, at all these hard moments of my life I really do not know if I was here today. I pray to God every day to keep him alive and healthy because he is a good man…
I want to thank him in a very open and public way for all people to see who Mr.Goudas is.
If the world had 2 men like him maybe life was better for sure.
And to close this long letter, I must thank all his team in his company (they are all of them perfect).
And all his valuable customers that they respect so much his name and his products which without any date are the best in the world! I am proud to serve him and his company!
With all my respect, Theologos Kangelidis
Oh my goodness, this little note has turned into an article for thought.
Spyros Peter Goudas really is a pioneer and an innovator and his products are available almost everywhere to thousand and thousands of loyal customers.
This article is not meant as a selling tools. It is informative and shows a bit of his character.
Ironically, he has also written a booklet titled,
Overweight, Highway to a Healthy Life.
This particular booklet is written in such a way to encourage people who are overweight to stop and think.
In fact, the book literally discourages people from consuming a large variety of his products, e.g., sugar, flour, syrops, salt, etc., etc. and to focus on a healthy lifestyle.
It is a true account of one man's journey from being overweight and it is also very encouraging to those who are diabetic.
Ladies, gentlemen and kids, the articles in this website are very informative and at times, inspirational and though provoking and I hope you realize that no other website or any other company has ever invested the time to create a website of this magnitude and stature.
One website creator informed us that it would take approximately 700 hours to read and digest the information we have incorporated. In fact, should you visit our Recipes and Letters of Appreciation Sections, you may be reading forever.
On a final note, Mr. Spyros Peter Goudas has very much improved from his Floaters and back injury and has begun to exercise his legs by actively kicking his salesmens' behinds (if you know what I mean, wink wink)!
We all know that Spyros Peter Goudas is a certified work-a-wholic. Would you believe that during his pain filled period, he channelled his energeries into the creation of over fifty (50) books, articles and recipes. And yes, there I was working along with him by the light of the computer screen because the floaters in his eyes prevented him from being in direct light involved in the making of a library of books.
With pain in his back, his legs, floaters in the eyes, a million-and-one problems involved in the running of the business, this incredible human composed most of the books in a comedic format.
I sincerely hope you set aside the 700 hours necessary to digest all this information.