TAMPA, FL – Heavenly Puffs founder Tammy Levent is a keynote speaker, business strategist, best-selling author, and TV travel correspondent. She is also the founder of Elite Travel, an award-winning national travel agency, TASK (Travel Agent Success Kit) which trains travel agents to build their business and their brand, and It’s My Bag, a non-profit organization that donates suitcases to children in foster care. Today, Levent's primary business focus is in the food industry. Based in Tampa, FL, Levent created Heavenly Puffs, frozen loukoumades, bringing the delicious ancient Greek dessert into the modern era.
According to the Greek poet and scholar Callimachus (circa 310/305-240 BC), loukoumades or "honey tokens" (χαρίσιοι) as he called them, were served to the winners at the ancient Olympic Games which began in 776 BC. Since that time, various cultures have developed their own version of the fried dough sweet treat that is a staple of Greek festivals around the world.
Heavenly Puffs are made with all-natural ingredients served in the authentic honey and cinnamon style or with toppings including chocolate, powdered sugar, Nutella, caramel, white chocolate, churro, jelly donut or create your own toppings.
With a unique recipe that preserves the texture, crunchy on the outside and fluffy, airy on the inside, Heavenly Puffs come frozen, ready to fry (or bake) on-demand (in two minutes or less) making them a must-have for Greek diners, restaurants, grocery stores, and markets. More information about Heavenly Puffs is available on Facebook, Instagram, and online: https://heavenlypuffs.com/.
Levent spoke with The National Herald about Heavenly Puffs, how COVID affected the business, and about her Greek roots. She also shares her advice for young entrepreneurs just starting out in these difficult times.
When asked where in Greece the family is from, Levent told TNH, “My mother is from Thessaloniki and my stepfather who raised me was a world-renowned singer and master bouzouki player Spiros Skordilis from Athens – famous for [composing] the song Oti Arhizi Oreo and the anthems for soccer teams in Greece.”
About the development of Heavenly Puffs, Levent said, “The idea started when I was in quarantine in March 2020. I’ve been making loukoumades for years but developing the freezable kind, was extremely challenging. If you try to freeze traditional loukoumades dough, it completely changes the texture. Some people try to get around this by not using yeast… BUT not using yeast also changes the texture.”
She continued, “I developed a unique recipe for loukoumades so they could be made in advance, frozen, and then fried on-demand. I worked on them for about a month every day making over 500 a day until I perfected them and tested them to make sure they were perfect as yiayia would make. Ensuring the loukoumades were made in the authentic style (with yeast) so that they could maintain their trademark texture was crucial – a culinary feat that changed everything. I'm the first to create frozen authentic loukoumades for the food service industry and markets! The total time was around 6 weeks [from idea to realization].
When asked how COVID affected the business, Levent told TNH, “Actually, we created this business BECAUSE of the COVID crisis.”
“Before the pandemic, I worked in the travel industry, but when COVID hit, my business fell apart,” she noted. “To make ends meet, my husband and I began working full-time at our weekend side hustle: Heavenly Puffs, a Tampa-based food truck serving up loukoumades. It was a big hit in Tampa!”
Levent told TNH, “To meet the growing demand, I had to ramp up production, but freezing traditional loukoumades dough produced unacceptable changes in the texture. So I developed the new recipe and word quickly spread among Greek Restauranteurs about this shippable, preservable, fry-on-demand snack, and what was our small Tampa-based food truck side hustle became a national Greek dessert sensation!
“We have exploded in restaurants throughout the U.S. from Florida (where we are based) to California, Texas, Chicago, New York, and more. People have even reached out to us all the way from Greece!
“We are also in markets which is unusual for a product to go into food service as well as markets, Mediterranean Foods New York, Agora Market, Florida, Greek Food Emporium, New York, and Greek International Food Market in California, we have also reached out to Greek Orthodox churches, helping them with their drive-up/pick-up (as you would Girl Scout cookies), pre-order and pick up loukoumades for home, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Jamestown, NY, Hellenic American Academy in Chicago, and now Plato Academy in Florida. It’s been hard to work because this all exploded at once, but we know we are the only ones that have created this product and everyone loves loukoumades! They just don’t want to spend three hours making them.”
When asked what her advice for young entrepreneurs, Levent told TNH, “I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 17, partnering with Seven Islands Packing Express in Brooklyn. My tips are as follows:
Think Positive and Be Fearless (yes, this applies even in a pandemic): If you know that you have something that people want, and there is a demand or need, you are on the right track. Also, don’t try to copy others, that is where you will fail.
Build Strategic Partnerships: Ask for help from those that know more than you, and that you feel good about the relationship. It’s not always about the money.
Lead with Passion: You need to be completely involved in your business from beginning to end. Get your hands dirty and make the dough, mop the floors, go out and sell your product. Never stop doing this!
Build Slowly & Save: Once you start making a profit, save your money, and invest in yourself, you are always your best investment!”
About her upcoming projects, Levent said, “My goal is to bring the historic loukoumades back to their roots and serve Heavenly Puffs at the Olympics. I want Heavenly Puffs to be a household name.”