ABOUT MILENA BOZHKOVA
Milena Bozhkova is 33 years old and originally from Bulgaria. She has been living in Northern Ireland for 14 years.
DO YOU LIVE LIFE WITH A PURPOSE? PLANT-BASED FOOD
7 years ago, I was riddled with stomach pain, and I had already had my gallbladder removed at that stage. It was a constant trial of different kinds of diets/lifestyle changes to help me overcome my health issues, but nothing seemed to work. Gluten free, paleo, keto, you name it, I’d tried it. A friend of mine suggested that I should try to go vegan for a week and see if it would make a difference. And so, I did, and I haven’t looked back. I cut out all animal products and I felt like all my health issues were disappearing. But I faced another problem. No one really catered for vegans, so I had to start cooking my own food. That was the best thing I ever did because it led me to my passion and purpose.
With every day I became more passionate about plant-based food and I wanted to show the world that vegan doesn’t have to be boring and bland. For whatever reason one chooses to make the transition, for their health or for the animals or for both, they won’t have to miss out on flavour.
So I started searching, I started reading books not only on the health benefits of a plant based lifestyle but also on combining flavours, representing textures, exploring ingredients, learning about herbs and seasonings. My passion about cooking became so big that I had no doubt that it’s also my calling in life.
Not long after, I went to the Philippines as volunteer to serve families less fortunate and help improve their kids diet with plant-based choices. Teaching them how to use what they already had even if that was very little at times. I was organising soup kitchens every Sunday in the poorest part of Manila, and this was probably the most fulfilling and content time of my life. After a total of 6 months spent in the Philippines I returned to Ireland and decided to take over the pastry world and learn from the best. I did a course with Chef Ksenia Penkina and I was able to “translate” all the knowledge that I had gained, to vegan, so I could use it to create my own magic. I also completed various other pastry courses in Ireland and the UK, one of them with the amazing chocolatier Chef Erik Van Der Veken. Every time I attended a non-vegan master class, I spent weeks of trials until I get the desired result. I knew I wanted to have the same flavour but without the animal products, and sometimes that could be quite a challenge.
Nearly 2 years ago I had the privilege to be part of Toni Rodriguez’s class, where I learnt so much and my career started to grow and exceed. With all the knowledge and experience that I had gathered as a private vegan chef for the last 7 years, I became very good at recipe development, and I was able to coach and consult companies who needed help with plant-based options. Today I successfully run a small catering business providing fully plant-based menus, bespoke desserts and consultancy.
Have you heard of the 5 platonic elements? Earth, metal, water, wood, fire. Man is a microcosm of nature: the five basic elements present in all matter also exist within each individual. My food is exactly that, it contains the 5 platonic elements. It contains LIFE. It represents all things that exist in the known cosmos, no matter how great or how insignificant, and the unending flow of energy between everything in the universe.
My goal was always and will always be, to create not only food to nourish the body but to also nourish the soul. It does not matter how physically fit our bodies are, if we do not have tranquillity, peace, and harmony within our souls.