Meet Expat Sofra's Editors

I didn't used to like tea. Or yogurt. Or grape leaves. Then I moved abroad. An American residing in the Middle East, I have called Turkey home since 2003. 
It was with both trepidation and excitement that I first visited Turkey in 2000. While love gave me the courage to take the trip, the minute the plane landed in Istanbul, my soul felt like it had come home. I hadn't expected a missing puzzle piece clicking into place. 

Even after subsequent visits and the ending of my romantic relationship, I couldn't get Turkey out of my mind. 

I capture this in my story "Haze" featured in the expat anthology Tales from the Expat Harem (eds. Ashman and Gokmen, 2005.) After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a B.S. in History, I took a chance and moved to Turkey on my own. Just to see if I could. I not only learned how to drink tea and eat yogurt, but also how to make strong black tea in a two-pot samovar and to make my own yogurt with farm fresh milk delivered to my door. 

A Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio native, the jump to Istanbul life was a big one, and overwhelming at times. I document my experiences in a weekly column for the Istanbul-based English language daily Today's Zaman under the pen name "Elle Loftis." Over the past seven years I have written honestly about my life first as a single woman, then as a foreigner marrying a Turkish man, and now as mother to a preschool-aged son. 

Another story of mine, "Instant Mother, Just Add Tea," can be found in the anthology Encounters with the Middle East (eds. Bowman and Kashan, 2007.) Besides writing and editing, I have also taught kindergarten and preschool English for several years. Before moving to Turkey, I was quite shy, but being repeatedly kissed on both cheeks by Turkish people pushed through all personal boundaries. Now I am a personal-space-invader on my visits back to the United States. 

Turkey - the culture, the people, have all nourished me with a myriad of flavors over the years and I am so happy to give back through Sofra. 

What better way to illustrate the stories of expats than with food?
Photo credit: the incredibly talented duo Julia and Martina of Journey Collective, styling by Gipsy Shears.

 Francesca Rosa

Unlike any of her other Italian friends, Francesca Rosa left Italy and began her expat life at the tender age of 18 to study English in the UK. She continued her studies further by enrolling in and completing her Bsc in Economics with Languages and International Business at the University of Surrey. In order to complete the program she had to live one year each in Barcelona and Paris, where the food of her short term expat host countries enchanted her, merging with her Italian flavors.  

She balanced studies with large dinner parties where she experimented with the cuisine of her host countries; tapas, paella, croissants and crepes vying for table space with foccacia. 

 After graduation she left for a volunteer job in the Andes of Chile, along the way becoming fluent in four languages; Italian, English, French, and Spanish, proving that the way to a fluency is most certainly gastronomically inclined. 

For 2 years she worked in management at the Rose Island Yacht Company, following the production and sales of Lobster motor yachts. In 2005 she earned her Msc in Strategic Management at the prestigious SDA Bocconi Business School - Milan. She returned to expat life in 2006 this time in Turkey, where she married and currently still resides. There she struggled with the agglutinative language and the high glutinous regime: in one and half years this yabancı became a master at ordering food and discussing recipes with proud locals, while happily putting on 8 kilos. In 2009 she returned to corporate life as Vakko Cruise Brand Manager. After a serious illness in 2012, that didn’t allow her to walk, she began working from home for the Samsung headquarters in Korea, setting up a project based company to develop the translation software of Samsung Translate. Once the assignment was completed, she decided the time was ripe to pursue her real passion, food.   

From an amateur cook she became a certified, cultured, gourmet specialist with her Le Cordon Bleu Grand Diplôme (mention très bien).  

Her strong will and tenacity in the kitchen earned her a 3rd place in the Cuisine course in a class of solely professional (and sometimes presumptuous) male chefs, and 2nd place in the competitive Pastry course. Nowadays, as a professional chef and food stylist, she blends haute cuisine and French pastry with hearty local flair. She is adept at spicing up old recipes with tastes reminiscent of her travels around the world, while also grounded in her adopted homeland. Her Patlican Parmigina, Raki Ceviche or Green Tea Mousse are few examples of her fusion creations. A feast for the eye as well as the stomach, her talents as a food stylist for have been featured on posters, packaging and blogs. Her expertise gained her a place at the Organization Committee of Boccuse d’Or Preselection Turkey 2016, and participation at the Istanbul Contemporary Food Art Festival.

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