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Interview with a Local:
Greek Gastronomy and Athens for Foodies

Greek Gastronomy and Athens for Foodies

Date
28 November 2019

Today we meet in Athens with Greek Chef Yiorgos Tzovlas to talk about food and the city. Yiorgos is a local Athenian, passionate about Athens and its food heritage. He has worked in all areas of a commercial kitchen and prepared delicious Greek meals for many foodies. Let's see what he has to say about Greek food and Athens!

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Chef Yiorgos Tzovlas

Tell us a little about yourself. What inspired you to become a chef?

Ι think I have been a cook my whole life. I owe the love for cooking to my family that owns a professional restaurant, Techlikides, with traditional peinirli since 1936 in Drosia, Attica. That fact lives to the core of my art and it is what inspired me to pursue a professional career and become a chef, which I have been for the last 14 years.

What is it that you love the most about Greek cuisine?

What I distinguish the most when it comes to Greek cuisine is the tradition; the ritual behind every Sunday lunch with your family or every dinner or gathering with your friends. What makes Greek cuisine special is that respect to the tradition that unites the Greek families and friends together. Additional to that, I believe that we are very lucky to have very good raw material that we use to create all the beautiful Greek dishes.

Do you think the ancient Greek diet influenced the Mediterranean cuisine?

It surely did and quite a bit actually. When it comes to creating our modern recipes, we use the same raw material such as barley, wheat, honey and olives to name a few. A great number of our recipes come or are inspired from ancient Greek recipes. If we take a look at Greek heritage, we see that modern Greeks have kept alive many customs that require ancient dishes. So, in a way, we kept the tradition and the food alive.

Chef Yiorgos Tzovlas

What is your favorite thing about Athens?

What I adore about Athens is her picturesque alleys and the long walks through her neighborhoods; looking at the locals, enjoying the street musicians and merchants. But above all, my favorite thing is what Athens has to offer. You can always discover a new place to drink, eat and enjoy old traditions and habits or make new in every corner, with reasonable prices and exceptional quality.

Any tips for foodies visiting Athens? Where to go, what to do?

Surely anyone who visits Athens has to try souvlaki! But beyond the obvious, I believe they should visit traditional pastry shops like Constantinidis, and enjoy themselves at the Tsipouradika taverns with live music, Greek meze, local drinks and good company.

Where is your go-to restaurant? 

Well, my go-to restaurant would probably be Techlikides restaurant (laughs)! Athens has a great selection of restaurants. If you find yourself in the northern suburbs of the city for a quick escape, then me and my family will be happy to serve you in our restaurant. But I know most visitors live down in the city center, so in that case, I would recommend Bandiera. It is a tavern-like restaurant in the area of Psyri, located in a beautiful alley; nice space, nice music but above all.. great food!

Greek souvlaki

Is there one thing not many people know about Greek cuisine?

I believe that, what the world does not know or hasn’t realized yet is that Greek cuisine, as formed today, is a very successful mix of Mediterranean flavors deeply influenced by eastern flavors. That interplay of savors is what makes it unique and differentiate it from other cuisines.

Do you think Athens is going to play a big role for Greek gastronomy in the upcoming years?

Athens has already begun to become a gastronomical capital and that fact is already affecting the rest of Greek cities and regions and their cuisines. Chefs from all over the world are coming to Athens and they are coming to stay; they are opening up restaurants, fusing flavors, elevating the art of culinary… that fact is really putting Athens on the world map, sort of saying.

What is your favorite dish? Any secret ingredient we should know about?

My favorite food is peinirli, a type of elongated boat-shaped open pie, with basically yellow cheese inside, on which various kinds of sausages, eggs or vegetables can be added. The traditional recipe I grew up with, watching the process, making it, eating it, hearing stories about it, was brought by my grandfather from Pontos. In my restaurant, we still serve the authentic recipe of my grandfather and we are really proud for it! Although I can’t reveal all of his secrets of course (laughs), I can tell you one - crucial for the outcome though - secret ingredient: butter from Corfu Island! 

Greek peinirli

We would like to thank Chef Yiorgos Tzovlas for sharing his culinary knowledge with us and his tips for Athens. We also like to thank the personnel of Techlikides Restaurant for showing great hospitality to our team. If you wish to have a culinary experience in Athens, contact us and we will arrange a walking food tour for you with a local field expert.

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