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An Interview with Melissa Llarena

Apr 13, 2021

Where does our food come from? How mindful are we about the food we purchase and consume? What is conscious gastronomy and how is it one step closer to the achievement of an equitable food system across the world, which subsequently falls under every other form of power dynamics? Eleni Michael is on a mission to answer these questions and educate the public for a better food future. Listen to the end because we go on to discuss how Eleni got into the food industry (hint: by creatively following her curiosities) in the first place given that neither of her parents were in the field.


Eleni was raised by internally displaced refugee parents, who lost their homes from the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974; their country has always been under occupation or control of some other state, and that is deeply reflected in their food system.


At the age of 18, she left Cyprus to study abroad where she completed her first degree in International Hospitality and Tourism from the University of Surrey and the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. Her journey in food started from her first classes in Gastronomy and Olfactory Studies, while also taking various part-time jobs throughout her student life – from restaurants and hotels, to private dining and large-scale national events.


It was during her first full-time internship at the Savoy hotel in London that Eleni fell in love with haute cuisine and fine wine and liquors. However, her involvement in sustainability consultancy for private brands and NGOs in the UK and abroad, led her to a path of exploration of what is behind what we consume – whether that’s services or goods. She shifted her career from working in Michelin-starred restaurants to staging farm-to-table restaurants of the World’s 50 Best from Denmark to New York, finally taking on the position of the project and floor manager for the opening of a zero-waste restaurant in London. Most recently she has joined the Future Food Institute and FAO on a Regenerative Food Systems program as a Food and Climate Shaper. She is also a member of Charles Michel’ Conscious Eating Community with whom she has recently hosted a conference on Sustainability and Privilege.


Eleni is bilingual in English and Greek, fluent in French and is currently learning Japanese. Beyond food, her education in Arts, Theatre and Music since a young age has led her to co-founding an art gallery in 2019 named Enalia, in Cyprus. Being an active volunteer for non-profit organizations including the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, UK and the International Institute of Hospitality as Secretary for the London Branch, she often teaches food to school children as well as being a guest lecturer and mentor to university students.


Please share this episode with three people who want to be more conscious about the food on their plates. If you want to know how to shape a better food culture for the future, then this one is precisely for you too!




  • What is Conscious Gastronomy? Eleni Michael explains the importance of being mindful about the food we consume. Where did it come from? Who sacrificed what to produce it?
  • Food Consciousness in Urban Environments: Eleni is working hard to educate students in public schools about the food they eat in partnership with The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in the UK.
  • Sustainability: Dan Barber and the Farm-to-Table movement.
  • Zero-Waste Restaurants: Eleni talks about her experience as a Project Manager for a zero-waste restaurant in the UK.
  • Repurpose Food: Learn some recipes for those soft and gooey yams your first instinct would be to throw away.
  • The Food Culture of Refugees: What kind of food is given in refugee camps? Eleni talks about the Turkish Invasion of 1974.
  • Equitable Food Systems: How do we achieve an equitable food system, even for people who don’t have the privilege to choose what food they consume?
  • Japan: How the Japanese value their traditional cuisine.
  • Conscious Cooks: How everyone can use social media to expand their knowledge and learn more about ethical eating and zero-waste recipes.


Links to quench your curiosity:


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Connect with Eleni on LinkedIn:


Want to continue the conversation?

Find me on Instagram! You can read my daily mini-blogs centered on the same three topics that my podcast features: creativity, courage, and curiosity. I believe that without all three it would be impossible to solve the challenges we were each uniquely made to solve. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m easy to find on Instagram @careeroutcomesmatter

Rather keep it professional?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn. I encourage every single podcast listener to connect with me.

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In wordpress, we do want to add relevant tags to this episode….this is about a culinary career….food insecurity, etc.