Authority Magazine
Published in

Authority Magazine

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder

My biggest piece of advice to my colleagues is to have help in the areas others do better than you. At The Mediterranean Dish, my husband Saba stepped in as President. He wears many hats, overseeing all business-related and technical aspects of the business, in addition to managing the ins and outs of our eCommerce arm. We are better as a team.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzy Karadsheh, chef and founder of The Mediterranean Dish, the leading online resource for wholesome and approachable Mediterranean recipes. Born and raised on the shores of the Mediterranean in Port Said, Egypt, Suzy grew up with a wealth of Mediterreanean ingredients and foods visiting the local market with her father and cooking with her mother. Suzy moved to the United States for school and worked in fundraising and public relations before pursuing her true passion of cooking, leading to the creation of The Mediterranean Dish in 2014. Sharing convenient, modern recipes highlighting Mediterranean flavors, The Mediterranean Dish draws inspiration from Suzy’s upbringing, experience in her mother’s vibrant Egyptian kitchen, her mother-in-law’s Levant-style cooking, and travels throughout the Mediterannean region and beyond. Suzy will also be releasing her first cookbook in Spring of 2022 with more than 100 new recipes. Suzy currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Although I didn’t set out to have a career in food, my love for sharing it started at a young age back in the Mediterranean city of Port Said, Egypt. My early years were filled with sweet memories of visiting the local Souq (market) with my father, gathering things from just-caught fish, beautiful plump tomatoes, bunches of fresh parsley, and sticks of cinnamon from the vendors who would greet me by name. We would return home to my mother’s Mediterranean kitchen with our spoils, which is where I learned to cook simply by observing my mom play with flavors.

Community was of paramount importance to our family; my father was always welcoming strangers and friends alike to our dining room table and my mother would make delicious meals with bright flavors: lemony fish, baked chicken, stuffed grape leaves, salads and small plates of big, bold colors. Often, we enjoyed humble meals like falafel, or ful mudammas with a dash of cumin, or messy shawarma sandwiches with a generous drizzle of tahini sauce — all are still some of my favorite things to eat today! The food itself was never the point; it was all about the people around the table.

I brought this love of hospitality and Mediterranean cuisine with me when I moved to the United States at age 17. I pursued my degree in business in Michigan, followed by a career in marketing and fundraising which took me around the world. But everything came full circle after my second daughter was born: I returned to my love of sharing good food with the people I cherish around the table.

The standing joke is that I became an “accidental CEO,” because when my personal blog started back in 2014, it was just a way for me to document recipes and flavors of my Mediterranean heritage for my Michigan-born daughters. I wanted to instill in them an appreciation for their Egyptian and Levantine heritage (their father’s family is from Jordan), and I knew food is a good place to start. But once I started posting my recipes and photos on the blog, I ended up sharing my love for bold Mediterranean flavors and the intrinsically healthy Mediterranean diet with millions of interested readers.

By the fall of 2016, The Mediterranean Dish had served nearly 4 million users. It was because of the prompting of my followers, and that I was helping others live a healthier and delicious life, that I decided to make it my full-time job — more than that, a mission.

Fast forward four more years, and The Mediterranean Dish is now the leading online resource for modern Mediterranean cooking and the Mediterranean lifestyle, having served something like 60 Million users.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Today, The Mediterranean Dish is the leading online resource for modern Mediterranean cooking and the Mediterranean lifestyle. In addition to serving up free recipes, articles, and helpful content, TMD is a multifaceted company with a thriving e-commerce arm featuring our own proprietary line of extra virgin olive oils, all-natural and organic spices and seasonings, in addition to classic Mediterranean ingredients like lentils, tahini, and couscous. We love and strive to reach our readers wherever they are, be it via our website or across our engaged social media channels. The goal is to work alongside you in the kitchen, and to help you live a joyful and healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and delicious.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Two things: 1) My readers and followers are my number 1 motivators and 2) A keen focus on our niche in Mediterranean cooking and the Mediterranean lifestyle.

My readers and followers have always been the center of what I do. The fact that they take the time to read and cook my recipes, and share them with loved ones is truly motivating.

Every time I am in the kitchen developing a recipe, filming a segment, or writing an article, I am thinking of the people on the other end, I ask myself often: how is a particular recipe going to help make someone’s life better? What can I do to make Mediterranean cooking more attainable and less fussy? How can I walk alongside a beginner cook? How can I encourage someone on their health journey? All of these questions drive me to produce the best and most helpful content I can. I am always grateful to know that I can be a part of someone’s kitchen or that I have made even the smallest of difference in their lives.

Among the many e-mails, I am always reminded of one of the earliest messages I received from a gentleman named Kenneth, a retired attorney; I believe he was from Australia. Kenneth wrote to tell me that his wife of many years had passed one year earlier, and ever since, he had not been able to be in the kitchen without her. He just so happened to stumble upon The Mediterranean Dish on Facebook and began to follow along, eventually he tried his hand at my easy Italian Skillet Chicken. After some time, Kenneth began to have friends over once a week to cook a recipe from my site and share it together. His message did more to motivate me in those early years of blogging than he’ll know.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Burn out is a real thing when it comes to running an online business. Content-driven work can be particularly demanding because you are constantly having to produce — from writing to photography, video, and social media. On a given day, I may perform four or five different creative tasks, and it can be exhausting, not to mention all the small business decisions that one might run into.

My biggest piece of advice to my colleagues is to have help in the areas others do better than you. At The Mediterranean Dish, my husband Saba stepped in as President. He wears many hats, overseeing all business-related and technical aspects of the business, in addition to managing the ins and outs of our eCommerce arm. We are better as a team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The Mediterranean Dish website was my husband Saba’s idea. He encouraged me to pursue it and to grow it into what it is today. His vision, business acumen, and product management experience led to the expansion of our services beyond content development and into a full-faceted company with a thriving e-commerce business.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Although millions of users are able to access recipes and resources absolutely for free via my site, The Mediterranean Dish is making a difference in a very real and intimate way, one kitchen and one family at a time.

I mentioned Kenneth, the retired lawyer from Australia. There is also Mike B from a small town in Texas, a novice cook who grew up on a meat-n-potatoes diet and now religiously cooks and eats the Mediterranean way.

Surya who says,“I had to change my way of eating as I have a rare bleeding disorder…I was immensely thankful when I found your website and I use many of your delicious recipes. I follow a Mediterranean diet for the most part and look forward to your blog…”

Lastly, Ashley who wrote to tell me, “Honestly, you are the entire reason I am eating Mediterranean food and I am not just saying that to be nice. I am from the south and we tend to eat very heavy, unhealthy foods. Your newsletters and corresponding recipes have transformed how I cook and the way I see food. Thanks for sharing your passion to the masses. We appreciate you even when you don’t even know it!”

These are just a handful of examples, and daily, I am truly grateful to walk alongside many families, helping them pursue a joyful, healthier journey without giving up flavor.

As a family, charitable giving has always been a priority to my husband and me. But especially during the pandemic we have been able to use our income in support of local charities, food banks, and international causes like World Vision. We are so grateful to have been able to step up our giving because of the success of our business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would start a movement called “Breaking Bread.” I would love to see more and more people who may have differing views gather around the table to share a meal together. To break bread or to share a meal together is one of the most intimate and powerful acts of community.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis


Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.