After working in event marketing for almost 20 years, Fay Theos has opened a catering kitchen in Holly Hill.
Fay Theos grew up watching her grandmothers cook.
As a young girl, she used to stand on a chair at the kitchen counter and offer to help with whatever they were stirring up. Theos is a descendent of Greek immigrants, and food was an important part of her family life, she said. With the opening of Zest! — her new catering kitchen in Holly Hill — Theos is transforming her love of cooking into a career.
Theos, 48, created Zest! in 2009, running it for its first seven years by using the kitchen in the Honeybaked Ham by the Volusia Mall. “I call them my fairy godparents sometimes,” Theos said. “I owe them a debt of gratitude for allowing me to kind of get traction and get going."
Now, she has her own space — and with it, the freedom to cook difficult recipes as many times as she wants, without time constraints — something that her mother wants her to make the most of. Theos' parents owned a Stavros Pizza franchise for more than 20 years, according to the Zest! webpage at zestbyfay.com.
Instead of Theos watching her mother in the kitchen like she did with her grandmothers, now it’s Theos’ mother that observes and offers her help.
Theos said her mother now calls her and eagerly asks her what they will be doing at the kitchen that day.
“Whether they know it or not, some of this is following by their example,” Theos said.
Working as a caterer was a big change for Theos, who spent almost 20 years working in event marketing before she created Zest! in 2009.
She'd been playing around with the idea of a catering company ever since meeting some caterers in 2005, thinking that opening up her own business would be a good way to blend her love of cooking and her event marketing experience.
“I like to call it part of my mid-career crisis,” Theos said.
While Theos grew up in Ormond Beach, she moved to Charlotte for a few years; after her sister moved back, Theos decided to do the same.
“Coming back here after being gone gave me a different sense of how important it is to be among like-minded folks who are community-oriented,” Theos said.
She said the community has helped her push her business forward. When she was starting out, a few women whom she played tennis with supported Zest! by hiring Theos for small events they normally wouldn’t hire a catering service for.
“I feel like my customers are really loyal, and they’re rooting for me,” Theos said.
What's on the menu?
Aside from a standard catering service, Zest! also offers a weekly “meals-to-go” menu. While she offers meals of all types, Theos’ specialty is Mediterranean food, due to her ethnic roots, she said.
A few of Zest!'s many entrees are: flounder or mahi-mahi with mango salsa, chicken picatta, teriyaki pork tenderloin, pastichio, New Orleans-style seafood orzo, and chicken topped with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes.
Theos decided to name her catering service Zest! because it represented her motto for life: Zest for food, zest for life.
“The zest of a citrus, I think, adds an additional level of pizzazz, and I hope that’s what I bring to the food that I prepare for clients and customers,” Theos said.
To view the menu, go to zestbyfay.com. For more information, call 453-1588.