Thirteen years ago, a small unassuming shop going by the name of Debbie’s Cookies first flung open its doors in the Nicosia district of Strovolos. Fast forward to the present day, and the brand has become famous around the island for its delicious sweet treats, with Debbie known for making one of the best carrot cakes in the capital, if not the country!
Hailing from a small town in up-state New York, Debbie moved to Cyprus following her engagement in 1989. A decade-long exciting career in market research followed before she decided it was time to listen to an inner voice that urged her to become her own boss.
“The idea for Debbie’s Cookies came about because I had the know-how to produce something that not too many other people in Cyprus knew how to do, with very little capital. Baking was something that I liked to do occasionally, and when I did, I was good at it,” Debbie explains. And she lets on that colleagues would absolutely love it when she arrived in the office with a batch of her trademark American chocolate chip cookies. “Occasionally they would ask me for the recipe and I would decline because I told them jokingly that I would be selling them one day.”
What started off as a joke soon became reality, as Debbie set up shop in 2001, with more branches that followed around the capital, topped off by an eventual fourth store in Limassol in 2012. Her cookies were phenomenally successful, her carrot cake became almost legendary, and her deliciously divine chocolate cake graced the table of countless birthday celebrations. But what’s Debbie’s favourite? “Oh,” she sighs. “That’s a difficult question, my favourite cake depends on my mood. I really like the Chocolate Walnut Tart and the Armageddon (especially when they are served warm). They are very similar (chocolate and walnuts) but the Armageddon has the addition of coconut and caramel. I also like the Maple Walnut Pie.”
After 13 years in business, Debbie felt that last year it was time to move on, and when Cipro Mediterranean foods showed interest in buying the business and expanding the brand name outside of Cyprus, Debbie decided it was the right moment to hand over the reins and embark on a new chapter. But she hasn’t totally disregarded her apron or sweet treats, still working for the new owners as a consultant, advising on the recipes, training staff, and ensuring quality standards remain the same.
“Now I’m also dedicating time to myself and developing other personal projects that I’ve had in mind for a while, like developing my own cookbook (a publishing house has been waiting for it for couple of years now), and my personal website where I can develop my consultancy services.”
My Cyprus Insider now has a chat with Debbie and asks her ten questions about her life on the island…read on!
1. Three things you most love about Cyprus…
a. The accessibility to the sea, the warm sunshine and the sandy beaches.
b. The fact that I can enjoy a rustic mountain environment and within minutes be at the beach enjoying everything I like about the seaside.
c. The proximity to so many other countries.
2. Beloved spot on the island?
This is a difficult question to answer. I love many places in Cyprus – everything from the smallest and most traditional village, to the beaches and the ancient ruins.
3. Favourite town?
This depends on the time of year, and even that makes it difficult to choose one place. In winter (especially if we have had snowfall), I really like to be up in at the Troodos ski resort enjoying the slopes, stopping for a cup of mulled wine and sitting in the sunshine, taking in the dramatic environment. After a long morning of skiing, I like to head down to Kakopetria where we stop in at one of the local traditional restaurants and enjoy homemade soup (trahanas), fresh water trout, and zivania.
Another thing I like to do in winter is go to Fikardou (especially if the weather is dreary and grey). I go to the local restaurant there and enjoy traditional Cypriot mountain fare and sit near a warm fire. I also enjoy going to the seaside in the winter and watching it a wild state. If you’re lucky, you can find a restaurant right on the sea where the waves are hitting up against the windows.
4. Best memory?
One that I cherish is the first time I arrived in Cyprus. It was July 1985 and I had travelled here to meet my Cypriot boyfriend (now husband) whom I had known only 6 months at the time. He met me at the airport and had decided to drive me straight to the Finikoudes area of Larnaca to have a drink and watch the sunset over the Mediterranean.
5. Perfect weekend break?
Out on the lovely waters surrounding Cyprus. Either on a motor yacht or a sailboat with great company! I especially love it when we stop at various coves and visit friends or go to a great restaurant; the day is spontaneous, no plans, letting the water take us anywhere!
6. A day at the beach or mountains?
I will choose the seaside although I equally love the mountains. I have a couple of ‘favourite’ seaside spots on the island, one is the Protaras area. The colour of the water and the white sandy beaches are breathtaking – I can’t get enough.
My other favourite beach area is Makenzie in Larnaca. I absolutely love watching the planes come in for landing at the airport. It’s also an added benefit that Makenzie beach has completely transformed over the last 10 years so I find it a very lively and exciting place to hang out during the summer months.
7. Favourite place to eat?
I love this question – because I love food! I don’t eat to live, I live to eat! Mangia is one of my favourite restaurants in the capital. It’s one of Nicosia’s best-kept secrets and it’s located right across from The Mall of Cyprus. They have amazing pizza and offer a contemporary approach to traditional Italian fare. The menu includes everything from antipasti, salads, risottos, pasta, meat and fish.
No Reservations Restaurant in central Nicosia is another favourite, with its contemporary international cuisine. And finally, Puesta Oyster Bar and Grill in Limassol. The food is amazing and it’s located right on the seaside.
8. Favourite place for a drink?
I have two places that I frequent for a drink lately and those are Aperitivo Jetset Lounge and To Potopolio. Both of these places have a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere while the staff are very friendly and attentive. My preferred time for going for a drink is relatively early (5.30pm – 9pm). I like it when a place is buzzing but when it gets too crowded I like to leave.
Photo: To Potopolion
9. If you were to recommend a visitor tries just one local dish, what would it be?
I cannot pick one. It has to be two. ‘Louvia freska vrasta me kolokithi’ (fresh black-eyed beans with marrow) accompanied with traditional Cypriot bread, olives and fresh onion. Also ‘Arni me spanaki’ (lamb with spinach) accompanied with a nice local red wine.
10. Best season in Cyprus?
I like autumn in Cyprus. I like to travel to the mountains and take in the fresh autumn air and scenery. We’re lucky here with so many sunny days, and the light in the mountain areas in the autumn is phenomenal. Recently, I was in Lazania village (near Machairas) and I had the pleasure of watching the making of palouze (a traditional Cypriot sweet made from grape juice).