Who is Avra?
Founder of Yiam, one of the first women to go into her own branded food production, Avra is the daughter of a well-known Greek filmmaker, who left big-city lights behind almost 30 years ago for the magical smell of dirt after the rain. She was 26 and started her “university education” in nature as a vegetable farmer on 10 acres of land in Larissa, Central Greece.
Her company, a transliteration of “Yum” with a Greek accent (!), was born in 1999 in Agia, a quaint coastal town in Thessaly, Central Greece. Using the produce she was growing, she began to make an array of her own recipes. Almost three decades later, her kids are now part of the business and her product line has grown to include fish and seafood specialties, vegetable-based delicacies, and a wide variety of jams, preserves and more. Her oldest son, Cokos, is a chef who did stages with a litany of famous European chefs, including Joel Robuchon in Paris and “chef of the century” Juan Mari Arzak Arratibel in San Sebastian, Spain.
I have known Avra for years and first met her when I was a food journalist for Athens’ biggest daily newspaper. Her products are innovative, rustic but also innovative, sometimes quirky, but always delicious. I carry three of her meze items online. It was truly her ties to the land that first peaked my curiosity about her and her line of food products. “I produce Greek food. We live in a part of the world with an ideal climate and the good fortune to enjoy an enormous variety of foods that come straight from the earth. We Greeks live in a country with so many different microclimates; I see a whole world of unexplored treasures when I think about that.”
Yiam couldn’t be better situated. The town of Agia is near the sea but also in the foothills of the Kissavo Mountains and near the great agricultural plain of Thessaly, which reaches down to the shoreline and is packed with fruit groves. Apples, quinces, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, cherries, figs and all manner of nuts, including walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts and almonds, are all grown here and renowned for their quality. Avra sources most of her raw ingredients within close proximity to Yiam’s workshop, but also goes further afield within Greece when necessary. She also still grows some of the vegetables she uses in her products. “Raw ingredients are the foundation of great food,” she says. “I believe I’ve managed to bottle Greek traditions with an innovative twist, but always with an eye to the very best raw ingredients.”
You can find a few of Yiam’s products here.