In Conversation with… Zoi Zygelopoulou

The Restaurant Manager of Twisted Olive Doha talks passion for her work and love for her team.

How did you become involved in the hospitality sector? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Well, I’m Greek. So, for us Greeks, hospitality is in our DNA, it’s in our blood. We have the tourists. All of us, at any age, we will work as a waiter in a restaurant, at a coffee shop, somewhere! For me, I did that and then I wanted really to study it. I wanted to have a diploma, a degree and I went to hospitality school. Actually, my title is Food and Beverage Manager. But as you will understand, nobody is born a manager and school doesn’t actually give you the reality and the experience. So, I had to pass through all the positions. I was a food runner, I was a waitress, I was like whatever you can imagine. I studied to go to the hotels, but I worked a little bit in hotels and I understood that the hotel environment was not for me.
It was very strict and very regimented. What I wanted was life, I want my team to be people with personality, with character, with their ‘thing’. And I want all the people that are working with me to wake up in the morning and enjoy working with me. I’m loud. I love people and I love my people, my team. And I love the people that come because I want them to have a great experience. This is why I work in hospitality and why I really love my job.

How long have you been in Qatar and what decided you to come to the Middle East?
I came to Qatar on November 11, 2013. Before, I was in South Africa. I didn’t really know exactly what to expect and I never expected this choice I made would change my life. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. The people here, the guests, my team, they’ve become family and friends.
Now I have two countries. I’m Greek and I love Greece. That is my country where I was born. And I have a second country, Qatar. I have received so much love and happiness, success in my work and recognition. I’m really, really happy. Everybody asks how long I’m going to stay. Can I tell you something? As long as I’m that happy, I’m not going to go.

We understand that the Twisted Olive concept was inspired by an 80-year-old olive tree. Please tell us a bit about the history of the brand and how that concept is translated in the Qatar restaurant.
So, you have some information about Twisted Olive about the 80-year-old tree. Why olive? Because the menu is inspired by countries where the olive tree grows. You can see that we have dishes from different countries that they have olive trees there. And the second, the twisted part is that everything has a twist at Twisted Olive. The food, you will think it is classic but, small or big, it will have a twist. The way that the service is, it has a twist. The vibe, you have to see it, we are in a very green area under Burj Doha, nobody expects to find us there. And suddenly, wow, we’re a surprise for everybody. So, the twist is the location, it’s the food and also the service.
The team here, as I told you, they have their own personalities combined with the happiness, the music and the vibe. If you come here, we don’t want to take your money, we want you to enjoy. Sometimes, if I think someone has ordered too much, I’ll tell him – the kitchen is still here, order less and If you want more, I will give you more. What is a restaurant? The restaurant is a house. Twisted Olive is our house and when you invite somebody into your house, you want it to be clean and you want the food to be good and you want for them, your guests, to have good time. When I go to the tables, I don’t ask them ‘how was your food?’ I ask them, ‘are you happy?’ If you are happy, you will come again.

What are your personal favourite dishes on the menu and the one thing you would say everyone ‘must’ try?
From all your questions, this is the most difficult for me. I cannot answer. The variety of the breakfast items and the brunch and lunch and dinner is that good and our team in the kitchen, our head chef, really, they make great food because they cook with love. So, I don’t have a personal favourite. When people come and say, ‘what is your best seller?’. My friend, everything here is a best seller. If it’s not a best seller, it’s out of the menu.

When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time in Doha?
Now we go to the second difficult question. I love my work. Sometimes I don’t take a day off. Not because they actually need me, because I need to be here. So actually, one time my boss he threatened me, he told me to take the day off or he would tell security not to let me enter the building. It’s like my life is full when I’m here at Twisted Olive. And the people that want to see me, my friends, they’re coming all of them here. ✤