There’s no doubting that saffron is the most expensive and labour-intensive spice in the world. Remarkably, it is a difficult plant to reproduce without human intervention, and there is no way to harvest the delicate crimson filaments of the Crocus Sativus mechanically. The strands, or stigmas, must be carefully removed from the small violet blooms by hand, and there are only three per flower. So approximately 350 tiny threads of saffron make up a single gram, meaning it takes about 150,000 flowers to produce just 1kg of saffron.
Fortunately, a little goes a long way, and it only takes a pinch to infuse its aromatic, earthy flavour and brilliant colour. Saffron is integral to many dishes; from CEO Administrator, Avy Bartosch’s favourite – seafood paella – to Indian biryani and the yeasted saffron buns of Cornwall. “I love eating seafood. But a seafood paella is the ultimate for me,” Avy declares while smacking her lips. “The taste and aroma of saffron adds purpose to the dish.”
Avy’s appreciation of the value that a simple, yet hard-earned spice adds to her favourite dish is echoed poetically in her life and life experiences. “My parents got divorced when I was very young, and so mom became a working single mom,” she starts. “She did her best to give her three daughters (the “three strands”) everything they need – including a stable, loving home.” Yet, Avy admits that this stability was not automatic – it was extremely hard to harvest. “Yes, we had a few curve balls adjusting to the change, and my mom had to battle many of her own demons in the process. But she always made us her priority, always tried her best, never gave up.” Avy adds that her mom sculpted her and her siblings to be such strong, independent individuals in the process.
Avy attended school in Knysna before embarking on a career in administration. “I quite like the field of law, so I was excited when an opportunity to work for CEO came along,” she says. “I like the structure of the organisation and the amazing unit that we are, since I am extremely routine and structure-bound, not in a boring sense, though.” She says that this ethos and structure helps a lot when it comes to CEO’s role as the voice for employers. “I will say the difference is the open-door policy we have. Employers can talk to our teams with absolute confidence.”
Avy says her friends and colleagues would likely describe her as “no-nonsense, brutally honest, and grumpy (nors!).” But when asked, they counter that description by saying that she is dependable, supportive, pragmatic and hard-working. “Avy never takes anything for granted, she’s devoted to her family and only relaxes when she knows she’s completed the task properly.”
Avy has found sanity in exercise and has achieved a lot of success as a result of the hard work she’s put into it. She had the opportunity to represent South Africa at a bodybuilding competition in the bikini division and took 2nd place. “It made all the sacrifices, moods and tears worth it,” she smiles. She dreams of opening a gym one day. “Not your usual gym,” she adds. “My idea is to cater for disabled individuals, the elderly, struggling teens – I want a gym where they will feel safe, welcome, appreciated and where every little achievement will be celebrated.”
There’s absolutely no doubt that Avy will succeed in making that dream a reality. After all, she’s got that unique, go-getter, “saffron spirit” to guide her on her journey!