My name is Snejana (Sneji), but I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on Instagram. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria. I lived in Greece with my parents on the Island of Crete for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5.
My true love for cooking and baking started when I was a little girl. I learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world which is called – My grandma’s kitchen. I am self-taught and taught by my family only. My parents and grandparents are phenomenal in the kitchen and are my true inspiration. I am not a chef by any means, just a small time girl from a beautiful little European country that loves to be in the kitchen and calls herself a “home cook.” I will never forget waking up to the smell of fresh bread and homemade “Banitza,”which most of you would know as “Burek” in Serbian or “Tiropita” in Greek. It is simply the most delicious phyllo pastry dish, and the options for fillings are endless. My favorite filling was always cheese or pumpkin, which my grandma and I would often make for dessert. She would roll handmade sheets of phyllo every single weekend for hours, and I watched and helped her for as long as I can remember. These vivid childhood memories, and the heartwarming nostalgia associated with them, is what drove my passion for cooking later on in life.
I started to really cook and experiment with food on my own 12 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life. The cultures I was surrounded by growing up have made a huge impact on my style of cooking.Every Greek recipe I know comes from my parents. While in Crete, my family and I were surrounded by our Greek friends who taught my mom not only how to speak Greek, but how to make traditional Greek recipes. Thankfully, this knowledge was passed down to me and I am able to share beautiful Mediterranean cuisine with you all. Fun fact, my dad competed in the Olympics for waterpolo which is what led us to Greece to begin with.
Living in Toronto has transformed my cooking, and it is where my healthy twist on traditional recipes comes from. Toronto has shown me the importance of health and wellness. Back home we do not usually cook with the healthiest of ingredients such as avocado oil, mineral salt, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and all sorts of other healthy substitutes that are prominent in a health-conscious environment like Toronto. Toronto has shown me how to change up my traditional recipes and make them healthier by using better quality ingredients that I did not necessarily eat while growing up.
Now let me tell you about Italy and how it has influenced my cooking. For as long as I can remember, I have loved pasta. If I had to choose one last meal, it would be pasta.My favourite place to eat growing up was a little restaurant in Bulgaria near our house called “Italia” and I still go there with my family to this day. I also happened to meet the love of my life when I was just 15 years old, and he is Italian. Through him and his big Italian family, I learned traditional Italian recipes that were passed on from his Nonna and family in Calabria.
So why “The Modern Nonna?” The name resonated with me because I give most traditional recipes a modern twist. We all know a traditional Nonna doesn’t use avocado oil or make Alfredo from cashews. The name represents me, and my unique style of cooking. I hope I was able to give you a bit of insight into my life and my culture. I will continue to take you all along with me for the ride. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I love you all.