By Adam Kaufman
NEW YORK – Rona Economou methodically chops feta cheese and drips olive oil onto sheets of thin filo dough. Portraits of her Greek grandparents, who taught her how to make dishes from their homeland, hang over her head. The 34-year-old is busy preparing spanakopita, a Greek pastry that blends spinach and feta cheese and is baked into a flaky crust.
It's a big career turnaround for the former attorney. Only three years ago, Economou was a lawyer earning a good salary at a large Manhattan law firm. After the recession hit, in 2009, layoffs at her firm sent her packing. She had no idea what she would do. Then she visited the Essex Street Market, a closed air market in lower Manhattan, saw an unoccupied stall and had an idea. "I knew that I could have that space and I knew that I could support myself doing what I loved," she recalled. "It all happened in an instant."
Only six months after losing her corporate job, Economou began constructing the food stall. She named it Boubouki, which means "budding flower" in Greek. A small space measuring just 7 feet by 7 feet, outfitted with a stove, sink and serving counter, the stall has been the home to her thriving business since 2010. "I knew from the beginning, I wanted to make food that was close to my roots, that I had grown up eating," said Economou. Boubouki's specialties include Greek flatbread with tomato and feta, chickpea salad, pear cake and baklava.
"Boubouki is actually very fitting [as a name]," she said. "The stall is so small, and a flower bud is something that is so small that is going to grow into something bigger."
Watch the video above to find out more about Rona Economou's career transition from lawyer to Greek pastry chef and learn about the challenges and sacrifices that new entrepreneurs like her must often face.