NEW YORK – The second annual Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation Mediterranean Tasting Event was held virtually via Zoom, on January 24, with proceeds to benefit the Loukoumi Feeds the Hungry Program and more. A silent auction was also part of the event with a variety of items up for bid for the worthy cause, including sports and Broadway memorabilia, and dinner at Loi Estiatorio.
Loukoumi Foundation President Nick Katsoris gave the welcoming remarks and thanked everyone for their participation in the event which was spearheaded by Chef Maria Loi. Concerning the difficult year everyone experienced, Katsoris quoted Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times,” and noted how the challenges of the pandemic led many to try and make a difference through the Foundation with kids around the world who saw the need out there and did the good deeds that were in their hearts to make a difference. He mentioned the Loukoumi Foundation Room at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Loukoumi Feeds the Hungry program under the guidance of Chef Loi, and the Loukoumi Kids Club which has chapters in 10 cities across the country.
Katsoris then introduced a video with youngsters sharing how they spent the latest Make A Difference Day. As the children noted in the video, “Together we can make a difference.”
Katsoris introduced Chef Maria Loi, “TV star, bestselling author, and owner and chef of Loi Estiatorio, and a philanthropist, feeding thousands of people, cooking and delivering the meals herself to healthcare workers and first responders, including to the Floating Hospital,” and “the Loukoumi Foundation’s guardian angel.”
Chef Loi introduced the chefs for each of the cooking demonstrations. First up was Chef Miltos Karoubas from Greece who noted that he was so inspired by the children’s good deeds highlighted in the video. He then demonstrated the authentic Greek salad, with its seven basic ingredients- tomato, cucumber, red onion, Greek feta, olives from the Peloponnese, oregano from the mountains, and Loi brand extra virgin olive oil. Chef Korubas added that capers and green pepper can also be added.
Chef Jehangir Mehta discussed sustainability and used the food scraps from the Greek salad and leftovers to create two dishes. “Don’t forget the medicine,” he said, as he added Loi’s extra virgin olive oil. He said, “Make the palate work for you and use your scraps, there are a lot of people in the world going hungry.” His daughter also made an olive oil and yogurt cake with the leftover food items sent to the participants. “Don’t waste,” he concluded, “and make this earth better.”
Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation Mediterranean Tasting Event was held virtually on January 24. Photo: TNH Staff
Chef Cesare Casella made the Pasta Dionysio, named for the Greek god of wine, with oregano and goat cheese and noted that Chef Loi didn’t send him Greek wine so he used Italian wine in the sauce. Chef Casella added Helios brand pasta to the sauce, Loi olive oil, goat cheese, and parsley for color. A bit more oregano and olive oil was added on top to serve.
Chef Tom Lo, a practicing doctor by day and chef by night, noted his passion for eating healthy, and uses olive oil which reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. “It’s healthy but has great flavor,” he said. Chef Lo made a Greek-influenced stir fry with olive oil, honey from Crete, and fresh lemon juice, adding sugar snap peas and couscous.
Chef Diane Henderiks, also a registered dietician, offered tips on garlic as she made a roasted eggplant and mushroom hummus using Loi olive oil, with many other components of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
White House pastry Chef Bill Yosses now bakes only with olive oil not butter, Chef Loi noted in her introduction. Chef Yosses gave a brief tour of a greenhouse where the spinach tastes sweeter in the winter than in summer, he said, adding that he no longer uses any refined sugar in his desserts. He demonstrated how to make lemon olive oil cookies with Loi Honey, picking fresh rosemary from the greenhouse to add.
The recipes are also available online: https://www.loukoumifoundation.org/mediterranean-tasting-event-chefs.
Katsoris then presented the Parents of the Year Award to Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks and Eric Hanks. They were introduced by Chef Loi who noted that the ECOS brand was founded by Kelly’s father in his garage to create earth friendly cleaning products. Besides being the President and CEO of ECOS, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks is “a community leader, activist, and role model,” Chef Loi said, noting that “Kelly and Eric are amazing parents and I’m so proud to call them my friends.”
Katsoris noted that Eric Hanks in 1988 founded the M. Hanks Gallery which specializes in African American art. A fine art appraiser, Hanks is also the President of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, host of the popular podcast series Eric’s Perspective, and Director of Strategic Accounts at ECOS. He also taught at the University of San Diego. The couple has two daughters Alexia and Monica, a son-in-law, and two grandsons, Katsoris said, adding that they are role models to their family and the world because they do so much good every day.
The Loukoumi Foundation Parents of the Year Award was presented to Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks and Eric Hanks. Photo: TNH Staff
Vlahakis-Hanks expressed her thanks for the award and the acknowledgment and noted how she and her husband were moved by the efforts of the children making a difference and inspiring others to do so as well. She also praised the Loukoumi Foundation, noting that “the work you do is of critical importance.”
Eric Hanks also expressed his gratitude for the award and pointed out that “everyone benefits” from the foundation’s efforts and the good deeds it inspires.
The children of the Loukoumi Kids Club board, including Julia Katsoris and Beckett Potter, thanked everyone for participating, including the chefs, and the honorees- Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks and Eric Hanks, as well as Dara Davenport and Chef Loi for all their efforts.
Chef Loi also thanked Davenport for organizing the event, pointing out that she started as an intern and is now Loi’s business partner, and the event sponsors.
More information is available online: https://www.loukoumifoundation.org.