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Culture

Sofia Diana Antonakos: The Art of Song and Baking

Sofia Antonakos’ musical career was moving along nicely. And then COVID-19 hit, so she did what Greeks through the ages have done when plan A is interrupted by family or global tumult: she reached deep into herself and found a talent that she would turn into business and a new career: baking amazing cakes.

“I enjoy and love making them. It has indeed been an awakening to find myself in a new career,” she told The National Herald.

Sofia was born in Athens, Greece, in 1983. Her parents, Joanna Leedis and Nikos Antonakos, raised her and her brother Michael in their home in Patras before moving to Canada when she was two years old.

Her maternal great-grandmother's devotion to music had a strong influence on the family. Her daughter, Sofia’s grandmother, collected opera scores, poems, and literature all her life and donated a dollar a week to the Metropolitan Opera during World War II to keep it open.

Sofia believes her family's love of the arts is why she was born singing. She started formal singing lessons when she was eight years old and commuted with her mother two hours to and from her classes on the rocky mountain highway until she was 16.  

Sofia is an award-winning lyric soprano, making her Carnegie Hall debut as a guest artist in January 2017, singing the Margaret aria from the Opera Louise Riel. It is written and sung in the Matis language, created by Canadian Composer Harry Summers and Sofia had the honor of singing it in honor of Canada’s 150th birthday.

She then made her first international broadcast performance with conductor Yao and a full orchestra live from New York to Shanghai, singing The Yellow River Lament in Mandarin on September 11th, 201 honoring the people of China for the concert Remember Never Again.

The National Herald: Tell us about your studies.

Sofia Antonakos: I studied with Michelle Todd and won my first competition when I was 12. I believe opera and music were passed down to me through my ancestors and their love for art and music.

I continued my studies and found myself at 25, moving to Athens, Greece, and studying music with Maria Krilovici, performing for the Governor-General of Canada and the Ambassador of Canada to Greece.

I moved back to Canada in 2011, and shortly after my return, I left for New York to study with Mark Oswald from The Metropolitan Opera. He guided me to win the Encouragement award with The Metropolitan Opera in 2012, Eastern Region.

My childhood teacher Michelle Todd, contacted me to sing with her as a guest artist at Carnegie Hall 2017, and I was very proud to represent Canada for its 150th birthday. 

In 2019 I sang again with conductor Yao singing The Yellow River Lament in Mandarin. I also produced, directed, and starred in my music video performing Puccini's aria Vissi D'arte.

I had been very active in my studies and performances until COVID hit in 2020. I found myself at home with no money, no career, and nothing to do.

TNH: So what did you do next?

SA: I started to bake while I lived in Greece with my favorite aunt Margaret. I read baking books because I grew up surrounded by food, culture – cakes and desserts were always being served for Christmas and holidays.

My aunt is a fantastic baker. I remember everything she taught me when I lived with her. I decided to start baking and teach myself the art. My neighbors were impressed with my cakes and told me to start selling them and create my own business. Sure enough, people began to order them.

I was so happy to have a hobby and to be able to create and sing at home and lighten up people's lives during such a tragic time in history. I even had the opportunity to make a cake for a guest at the Pierre Hotel.

My business is now the art of singing and baking, as I also sing to my clients at birthdays and celebrations when I deliver a cake. I am currently partnering with Eterra Kitchen in Harlem, New York, with Bella Karakis to promote and make my cakes from her kitchen.

On June 6, I had my first volunteer engagement with the ‘Sail To Freedom’ event in New York to honor Greece's 200 years of Freedom and Hellenic Independence. It was a unique event where I sang both the American and Greek national anthems in New York Bay, singing to The Statue of Liberty and my people.

TNH: How did you meet your husband?

SA: I met my husband in 2013 when dining in Fiorello's restaurant across from the Met. I was studying and traveling from East Hampton to New York every week, and he was my server. He kept asking me out, and I honestly was swamped and wanted to focus on my career. So it took eight months for him to get a date.

I have to thank my mother – I was on the phone with her, and she was reading my coffee cup – LOL it's a Greek thing! She said a man is coming into your life and it is meant to be, so say yes. Five minutes later Alvin came with a note saying: “Please! Please, have dinner with me tonight.” I finally accepted, and we married a year later and have been together since.

TNH: Your laughter is like a music box.

SA: When I was a freshman in High school, I won the competition for best laugh in my grade. People have always said I sing when I laugh. I have a music box in my mind; it's funny because I laugh like a musical scale. The best part about my laugh is that it's contagious, and it brings joy to others.

TNH: What are your signature cakes?

SA: My signature cakes are Butter Cream, Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Cherry, Vanilla Passionfruit, Chocolate Raspberry, and Berry Chantilly Cake. My cakes come in many different flavors and designs, all created by me; my talent comes from my passion for creating.

As an artist, your talents come from within. Being artistic is an advantage because I am multifaceted in expressing my creativity. My cakes are a medium to display my creativity and satisfaction comes from delivering a custom product designed and made by my team and me. 

TNH: What is Eterra Kitchen?

SA: I am utilizing Eterra Kitchen in Harlem. It is a flex commercial kitchen. I love the concept, and it is ideal for me to move around in. It is spacious, beautiful – a perfect layout for a novice baker. I am very grateful to Bella Karakis, the founder, for her generosity of spirit and willingness to help me take my business to the next level. 

TNH: What is your next endeavor?

SA: My vision for Greek Goddess Cakes is to distinguish the brand and scale moderately. Long-term, with the right business plan, a storefront cafe would be ideal. With Bella's help, I know I will take my business to the next level.

The National Herald continued the conversation with Karakis.

TNH: Bella, tell us about your kitchen.

Bella Karakis: e.terra is a culinary workspace solutions company based in Harlem, NY, that provides flexible kitchen rentals and a full range of co-working and business services to support the growth of food and beverage companies in every stage of development. Our mission is to create a flexible culinary workspace where food businesses can develop, grow and innovate original food concepts without the need for heavy infrastructure investment or the risks involved in launching a food business.

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