DALLAS, TX – Dimitrios Vagenas, Executive Chef-Owner of MyKuzina, spoke with The National Herald about his life and career and bringing authentic Greek cuisine to the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area.
When asked about his background, he told TNH, “I was born and raised in Athens. Both of my parents were born in Konstantinoupoli and moved to Athens at a young age. From a really young age, I remember myself spending time with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen whenever they were cooking, which really was daily. I loved to see how they used and mixed the raw ingredients and I realize now that those were my first cooking classes, where I inherited the love for cooking and a lot of knowledge.” “My favorite dish at that time was a dessert my grandmother made with chocolate and cookies and how she would always assign me the task of crushing the cookies into small pieces and mixing the ingredients with my little hands,” Vagenas continued. “She would always say ‘the good memories are those created around the table, but the best are those in the kitchen where you can smell and touch the ingredients.’ That did not make a lot of sense to me at that time but those memories are precious now. “
“After I finished high school, I started working in the family business. Although I enjoyed working with my family, there was something missing from my life, cooking… After some research, I decided to attend the Chef D’Oeuvre culinary school in Athens. It was the best decision in my life, and I was so excited that I did not mind working and studying at the same time. The days would start early with studying, then go to work, and attend classes in the afternoon. During my studies, I learned a lot from top notch professionals in the field and also met some of the best chefs and friends. I completed the culinary program in 2009 as the top student in the program and received a scholarship that got me to the Food and Beverage Program, which I completed the following year. During the time I was studying, I started having a dream of owning my own business where I would serve freshly cooked food, the same as what my mother and grandmother would do when I was young. But first I decided to gain some experience.”
“The hotel industry piqued my interest because of the large number of guests they served daily,” Vagenas told TNH. “At my first job, I was part of the team handling group events and restaurants in Athens (Cape Sounio, Titania, etc.) and in Paros. In 2013, I decided to expand my knowledge to other cuisines and moved to France where I worked as Sous Chef for the Viking River Cruises. Next stop was Dallas, TX from 2014 until now.
“I started working with the Omni Hotels and Resorts as a Banquet Kitchen Supervisor and worked my way up until I became Executive Sous Chef in 2018,” he continued. “I got furloughed from the company in March of 2020 because of COVID-19 and became a stay-at-home dad, trying to adjust to the new reality like all of us.”
“In meantime, experimenting with different recipes was my new daily routine which made me realize I was ready to fulfil my dream and have my own professional kitchen,” Vagenas said. “After a long period of research and going back and forth, the ‘MyKuzina’ idea was born; an online restaurant that people could plan and order their healthy family meals around the DFW area- authentic Greek recipes, freshly prepared and cooked from scratch, cooled down, and delivered to my customers at their work or at home ready to reheat and enjoy with family and friends.”
“It took a few months of planning and scratching my head, until the idea became a reality. I had to find the perfect kitchen for this concept; a fully operating kitchen space with no seating, only access for pickup, a ‘virtual restaurant.’ It took several months to find and equip the kitchen in addition to taking care all other requirements associated with launching ‘MyKuzina.’ The most challenging thing in this process was to get all the required permits to operate, since the concept of a ‘virtual restaurant’ was new and not a common one.”
“The main goal of MyKuzina is to introduce authentic Greek cuisine and the ‘planning your meals in advance’ concept which offer a healthy eating routine,” Vagenas noted.
“There are a lot of Greek restaurants in the area but nothing like the ‘MyKuzina’ concept,” he continued. “You would not find anywhere in the area authentic Greek food like okra with chicken, gyro made from scratch, or soutzoukakia. Introducing the authentic Greek cuisine has been very successful so far and everyone loves it.”
“The second part, ordering food in advance for the week or for the next days, does need some more work,” Vagenas told TNH. “A lot of people are used to ordering food at the moment they would like to eat. The idea of scheduling your weekly menu in advance is something we do at home and something I was used to when living in Greece. It is the only way you would serve your family a healthy meal throughout the week.”
“If you have traveled or been invited to a Greek house, you have noticed the hospitality and how much we care for our guests,” Vagenas said. “This is something that I apply daily at MyKuzina, where every dish is customized based on the customers’ palate. It is the most rewarding aspect of my job to have people like what I create, and I always strive to hear their comments and keep notes on their preferences for their next order.”
When asked what is next for him and MyKuzina, Vagenas told TNH: “On the list of my next goals is to connect with Greek producers and be able to customize the menu based on those products. My vision for the future is to become a national food brand that will help people eat daily, healthy, Greek food cooked with high quality ingredients and accessible for everyone. To accomplish this, a lot of planning and grit is needed and I am ready to take it on.”
Eleas Tabakis, Executive Director of the Hellenic Cultural Society of Dallas, commented: “MyKouzina is the latest addition to the few Greek restaurants in the greater Dallas area. Chef Dimitris is doing a wonderful job serving authentic recipes both through his catering business and location at Grand Prairie. His homemade gyro is the only authentic [one] in town. A few of his catering recipes also have a refreshing Kostantinopolitiko twist. We are excited to have Chef Dimitri in the mix of the other Greek restaurants.”
More information about MyKuzina is available online: https://www.mykuzina.com/.