This post is also available in: Português
Throughout my work at FoodieBookings, I’ve met a lot of interesting and inspiring people.
People who came from other countries and fell in love with Portugal. People who started their business from nothing and now are making quite an impact in food business.
The list goes on, but the dearest to me, was meeting brave people who quit their 9-5 job to pursue their passion.
Sofia took my admiration to another level.
Born in Tunisia, daughter of a Portuguese diplomat, Sofia had the chance to travel the world and be in contact with different cultures.
Today, she’s the owner of a bio farm in Sintra: TerrAzoia.
TerrAzoia is a B&B for nature lovers, it produces its own food and where world-wide volunteers live and help.
Being a foodie as well as recipe tester and developer, Sofia is making the most of her farm, hosting plant-based/vegan cooking classes and supper clubs.
She also co-hosts The Best Nepalese Food in Lisbon experience with Chandra, a Nepalese permaculture student.
I usually visit the farm to take pictures or make videos of the vegan cooking classes.
After a few trips to the farm, we started to talk more and more.
It’s fair to say that, Sofia and I became friends – food does bring people together!
We would only talk about food and health, nature and new vegan experiences.
Then, because we became each other’s followers on social media and everything, I started to understand that Sofia’s life wasn’t always that traveling glamorous.
Getting to know her story, made me realize she’s one of the most exciting and brave women I’ve ever met.
I gathered a few questions for Sofia to reply, so that travelers could get to know the host behind our top selling plant-based/vegan experiences in Lisbon:
What was it like to grow up living in different countries?
It wasn’t always easy, especially if you’re a kid.
Changing countries means having to start over.
New house, new school, new friends, new environment.
It can be exciting at certain age and mindset.
But for a young child as myself, it can become quite challenging.
I was very lucky to have an older sister and a mother who helped me through theses changes.
Life taught me that family ties are really important, there’s nothing like family support.
As I grew older, I started to make the most of all these home moves, as I realize that the best of this experience is to get to explore several countries, new cultures, languages and of course: food!
Why did you choose to live in Portugal?
Even though we were growing up living in different countries, we always had time to visit our family in Portugal.
We always visited the country on special holidays such as Christmas, Easter and summer holidays – on school break.
We had a really strong relationship and we were always in contact with my grandparents on my mother’s side.
The last country where my father worked as a diplomat at the service of the Portuguese government was the United States.
So that’s where I was studying, and once I finished my college degree, there was no doubt for me where I wanted to live.
Your home is where your heart is and mine was in Portugal.
Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want.
Life made me go back to the U.S. and after 18 long years living in various States, I finally made it back to Portugal.
Meanwhile, my parents bought a farm in Sintra – Quinta do Rio Touro – so I had the chance to use part of the land to open my own farm – TerrAzoia – and create a space for nature lovers.
My daughters and I are surrounded by nature 24h/7, there’s ocean view, they are eating healthy (and organic!), and are 1h away from the Portuguese capital and every day meet people from around the world.
How could I not choose to live here?
Besides being a “Bed & Breakfast”, now it’s also a community kitchen with vegan cooking classes.
My two daughters are growing up knowing from where their food is coming, how its produced and how to produce it!
What’s your day like in the farm?
My day at the farm usually starts with coffee!
This farm is following the permaculture principles, such as avoiding to produce waste, using renewable energies, being sustainable, use and value diversity and so on.
So after coffee I do a little gathering with the volunteers to brief the day and to schedule the activities and the day’s chores.
Depending on the month and the weather, there are days that we work on the roots to prepare it for flower beds, we plant vegetables, and we also work on “bug hotels”.
“What’s a bug hotel?!” you ask.
See, we don’t use any chemicals when growing our food, which means other animals love to give it a bite!
So what we do is, we put together a little accommodation boosts and establishes a sustainable chain and its own eco-system.
From bees to spiders and scarabs, every little species has its role when it comes to establish a natural food growing and production.
Of course I have to be really disciplined with my time and energy, because in between hosting travelers, permaculture volunteers and vegan cooking classes, and raising two daughters, as you can imagine, my days are really full!
I wouldn’t change a thing though.
I love the feeling of community I have here. I meet people from around the world, we work the land together, we eat together, we share stories, knowledge, recipes.. and dreams! I have made really good friends throughout this journey.
What inspired you to work with food experiences?
Since I was a kid, I was always sneaking into the kitchen. I was always eager to learn everything my mother and grandmother were cooking.
Of course, the best part of traveling so much is to learn to appreciate different culinary cultures, so my curiosity to cooking was getting bigger and bigger.
I’ve always had the passion for healthy food though, even when I was a child, I would come up with unique plant-based dishes.
But I would say, that my journey started when I lived in the United States the second time around.
I began helping other families creating a variety of healthy meals – nothing vegan yet. My primary goal was to escape the fast-food and to prepare healthy dishes that even children would enjoy.
After 10 years of excellent results and a list of happy families, I started testing recipes for Leite’s Culinária: Cooking, Recipes, and Food Blog and short after, I added several more published cooking books to my resumé as a recipe tester.
In 2012, while still living in the States, I began to take more care with my health. I believe we are what we eat.
So I decided to take a Plant Based Nutrition course.
The fact that our mind and health is related to what we put in our bodies, made me me switch my diet to plant-based/vegan.
As I was making and testing plant-based recipes, I felt the differences in my body, from healing pain to energy boost.
I felt I was ready to share this experience with other foodies, and so I decided to help others adding more plants into their diet through classes.
Once I moved to Portugal in 2017, I was really eager to share my knowledge and I was super excited about hosting cooking classes, making dishes according to the season: using only organic ingredients from our farm or other local and organic ones.
One of the things that kept me going with these cooking classes, was that people were inspired by my passion.
People keep asking me for the recipes and I’m getting more bookings everyday by recommendations. That’s a good sign right?
At about, five years ago, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
First I was extremely surprised, as though there were other cases in my family, none were triple negative and I did not have the genes. Also, I thought I have always followed a healthy diet.
I exercised my body and ate right, so I thought I was taking good care of myself.
After my first shocking reaction, I decided to take action.
I started to read about alternative medicines, I learned more about the impact food choices have in our body and health, took Western medicine classes – and so on.
I was eager for information and for a solution.
Also, I had to make sure that my family and friends would accept the experiences I was willing to do with my body.
I did a lot of research on the which path to follow and what diet to follow.
Meditation played an important role as well, especially with mental health.
I had to make some radical changes in my life, in order to simplify it and I wanted results!
Nowadays, I still follow a plant-based diet and I’m a living proof that you can survive a disease by changing the way you live and eat.
From world food to North African and Portuguese cuisine, the creativity is endless at the kitchen of TerrAzoia.
Sofia is currently hosting 5 plant-based and vegan experiences available to anyone who’s interested in learning more about healthy diets and also to share their knowledge on the subject.
About the author
I’m fascinated by the unique cultures of the world and I love to explore new places through local gastronomy. My passion for food lead me on my biggest adventure: build my own startup. So, 10kg later, FoodieBookings was born to provide the best (and most authentic) Portuguese food experiences 🙂