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Food

A Festival Honoring Great Chef Tselementes on Siphnos

SIPHNOS, Greece – Deep into September, around 5000 people made sure to still be on the Cycladic Island of Siphnos. They attended the ‘14th Cycladic Gastronomy Food Festival – Nikolaos Tselementes’, honoring the Siphnian chef who literally ‘wrote the book’ on modern Greek cookery.

Set on the main square of the picturesque hilltop village of Artemona with its remarkable views of Siphnos and neighboring islands, it was organized by the Cultural Society of Siphnos, the South Aegean Regional Government, the Municipality of Siphnos, and the General Secretariat of Aegean and Island Policy.

“The festival began in 2006 on a small scale, with just a few Cyclades islands represented. Now 14 islands send missions, as do four areas in Attiki, as well as France, Morocco, Peru – and China,” Manolis Fountoulakis, the president of the festival committee, told TNH.

Born in Artemona and working at the local KEP, he noted the Cultural Society, whose President is Konstantinos Loukataris, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Fountoulakis explained that every group had a booth and from 6-9 PM every night on the main stage-kitchen each had its turn presenting. “It was like the cooking shows we see on TV,” he said.

Above are seen Chinese officials with Mayor Maria Nadali and Konstantinos Loukataris.

There were cultural events as well and after 9 PM the musical program began, presented by visiting and local musicians and dancers, including famed violinist Rev. Stratis Syrigos along with Loukataris, and Spiros and Grigoris Lembesis.

“On the second night, the Chinese delegation presented its culture in a very nice program. Every year on the last night, we bring a fine Cycladic musician so people can get up and dance ‘nisiotika’. This year featured Giorgios Marinakis from Folegandros and the festivities lasted until 4 in the morning!”

The children of the island also participated, donning chefs hats and aprons and creating delicious pizza.

The island also produces fine pottery and naturally its seafood is exceptional – highlighted in presentations by the societies of the coastal villages of Faros and Vathy.

In the past, the Festival, founded by current mayor Maria Nadali, was held in early September. The idea was to address the fact that after August 20 the island became deserted. “This year I gambled on holding it later and we won the bet – people stayed longer and many came especially for the Festival. We have succeeded in extending the tourism season into October” – indeed people can swim on Siphnos until almost November. Greece is succeeding in bringing tourism year-round, especially in Athens.”

Another ‘New Greece’ phenomenon, along with rising entrepreneurship, is ‘volunteership’. Photographer Georgia Georgouli, one of the organizers of the kitchen work and the social events, said, “the foundation of the festival are the volunteers – without them, nothing would have happened. There was no one we asked for help who did not join our efforts.”

Nikolaos Tselementes (1878 – March 2, 1958) was born in the village of Exambela and grew up in Athens. After working as a notary, he started cooking at his father’s and uncle’s restaurant. He studied cooking for a year in Vienna and in 1919 became manager of Hotel Hermes in Athens. He then went to America, working at some of its finest restaurants – Tselementes also excelled at French cuisine. Returning to Greece, he founded his school and in 1950 published his only book in English, Greek Cookery.

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