LIABP interview series: Kathleen Doherty / Owner Harmony Restaurant
1. Tell everyone a bit about yourself? Where are you from and what are you up to all year around?
My name is Kathleen, owner of Harmony Restaurant on the headland of Mylopotas Beach. I’m a dual Australian and Maltese citizen. I grew up about an hour from Sydney in the lower Blue Mountains. After living in many different countries from such a young age travel quickly became a huge passion in my life. I had a constant yearning to understand cultures, immerse myself in the food and lifestyle of whatever country I was in. I have worked very hard to fuel my passion in the finance and hospitality industries and after travelling to over 45 countries I knew there was not one other place I would rather be than at Harmony in Ios. After purchasing Harmony and completing my first season I was blessed with the arrival of my baby boy Jax. Life and travel looks different now, swapping nights out for early mornings. Jax and I reside in Ios for 6 months from May till September then try to explore a few different countries every year like Thailand, Mexico, Singapore, Bali, Norway, France, to name a few then back in Australia for a few months. Jax attends school now in Australia and distant education when we are in Ios.
2. What is your personal Ios story? How did you find out about the island, and how did you fall in love with Ios?
Back in 2004 I was on a gap year travelling on a one way ticket around the world after a break up from a long term relationship, first stop was Thailand then onto Greece. I remember flying into Athens and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and thinking I would just get lost in it. I jumped on the bus heading to the port thinking I would just ‘easily get a boat to the Islands’. How wrong was I they only depart at 7am daily so I had to spend a night in the city. I checked into a fabulous hostel, quickly met cool people to hangout with and hit the nightlife of Athens. Wow! Athens has all the goods. Rooftop bars, cocktails to die for, gorgeous Greek bar staff with great charm and gyros for the walk home. I quickly decided to stay a few days, exploring the flee & food markets, Greek music and of course the partying till all hours of the morning (no closing at 3am in Athens) and truth be told I missed two ferries to the Islands. On the 4th day I went straight from the club to the port heading to Santorini. I fell asleep on the ferry and woke up in such a shock with a Greek man yelling at me (this was just the loud ferry announcements). I really didn’t know where I was! Grabbed my bag and ran off the ferry. There was a man standing with a sign and the biggest warmest smile (I will never forget that smile or moment till the day I die) saying “Welcome to Ios” it was Niko from Hermes. Our conversion went a little like this…
Niko – How long are you staying? Have you booked a hotel?
Me – This isn’t Santorini…Is it?
Niko – No this Island is much better…
Niko convinced me to stay for the season and I never got to visiting Santorini because Ios won my heart.
3. Harmony is one of those spots that no Ios visitor should miss out on. What was it about the place that made you want to buy it?
I was truly in all sorts on the day I arrived in Ios. Niko pointed to the direction of the beach, swearing the Mediterranean Sea will fix everything! I walked down the completely wrong donkey track to Mylopotas and stumbled upon this amazing venue. I still get shivers down my spine talking about this moment. I stayed there swimming, drinking and eating what seemed like days meeting friendly people from all over the world. I had conversations about life, death, relationships and values. I even told people I would own this place one day. It took seven years for the universe to deliver the opportunity to buy the business from a wonderful Norwegian lady Elisabeth. My dream was for people to experience what I felt that day on my first visit creating a memory that people would never forget through our food, music and cocktails.
4. In your own words, why do you think people should choose Ios as their holiday destination? What makes it special?
There is a special magic in the air. It’s the warmth of the local people, it’s the beautiful beaches, it’s the variety of activities for all ages, the churches, great range of hotels, restaurants and bars. This magic has not changed since I first arrived 15 years ago. It’s a place that people meet and come back to get married years later because it's never left their hearts.
5. Regarding Harmony in particular, what is your goal? What do you want people to say about their experience at your restaurant when telling friends back home about it?
My goal has always been to create a memorable experience for the guest because, simply put, it’s the people that make Harmony special. Everyone that visits leaves a little bit of them self behind with a bit of laughter, a bit of soul and a whole lot of fun. A place they will call home and a place that will always stay in their hearts. There is also the added bonus of having the best views in the world, live music, bean bags, hammocks, children play areas, cliff jumping, swimming, board & drinking games, bocce pit & yoga classes together with our Mexican cuisine and healthy breakfast menu and cocktails that flow from morning to night.
6. What are you looking for in your staff, if anyone is looking to come work a season at Harmony?
I look for people with a passion for hospitality from all over the world, people that can share stories and become a part of the family.
7. You have had your fair share of nights out in Ios over the years. Any funny story you could share with us?
Oh yes there has been many but the Harmony staff outing nights are generally the best. One night that pops into mind was an evening where the Harmony girls went on a staff night. I put the girls into teams and handed them a scavenger hunt around the town. There was clothes swapped in toilets, dancing on bar tops, men getting stripped of their clothes, shots in all the bars finishing in Slammer bar doing ‘banquet’ (if you don’t know what banquet is…make sure you ask me on your visit to Harmony)
8. If you have a day off in Ios. How would you spend it ideally, and what are your personal favourite places?
Hahaha what are days off when you own a restaurant that runs seasonally? On the rare occasion this does happen I love catching up with girlfriends at their beautiful homes or enjoying a spa treatment at Liostasi Hotel.
9. If a group of students would ask you what is the best date for them to visit Ios, what would you recommend and why?
This is a tricky question there are so many fabulous events, international DJ’s visiting the Island these days all summer so my suggestion would be anytime!
10. What is your Motto?
We only live one life you remember so don’t make the mistake to think you travel to escape but we travel so life will not escape you!