Peter Minaki: an ambassador of Greek cuisine
From his cookbooks, to his popular Kalofagas blog, to his supper clubs around North America, Peter Minaki is a veritable ambassador of Greek cuisine.
Meet Peter Minaki
A native of Toronto, Peter traces his Greek roots to Florina in Northern Greece. He’s always loved Greece and everything about it. He’s been a frequent traveler to the homeland since he was young.
Peter had been working as a financial advisor when he started the Kalofagas blog in 2007. He envisioned a place where he could share travel stories and his passion for Greek cuisine. The aptly named Kalofagas — Greek for gourmet — took off. His blog soon became a popular destination for lovers of Greek cuisine. They enjoyed Peter’s travel stories, and devoured his recipes — traditional ones, as well as others spiced with his own unique flavor. I first interviewed Peter in 2009. He explained why he started the blog.
“I didn’t like the way Greek cuisine was being presented. There’s still work to be done. People think that we eat souvlaki every day; that Greek salad is made with iceberg lettuce. Who better than a Greek person to share that our cuisine goes way beyond that?”
Greek food: steeped in tradition but evolving
Peter spoke about the importance of food in Greek culture.
“Food is in our genes. We’ve been brought up around the table. Sunday dinners with family are a big deal. It’s our gathering point.”
He said that people are opening up to trying new things. Peter added that there are “1000 ways” to make spanakopita”, and people are beginning to embrace a different way of doing things. He also said that non-Greeks are also getting a better idea of what Greek food is all about.
“I like to be creative with recipes. There are family favorites. I go to Greece every year and each time I experience something new. I look at what other chefs are doing. I explore. I read other food blogs and lots of cookbooks. Then I add my own twists. Sometimes I improvise if certain ingredients are not available. I like showing people that Greek cuisine is different from what they may be used to. It’s seasonal.”
He did say that though he adds “modern” twists and tries new things, that Greek food is steeped in tradition.
“It should still taste like Greek food. Yiayia should still be able to try it and know that it’s Moussaka”.
A passion becomes a career
In 2012, Peter was laid off from his job as an investment advisor. It didn’t take him long to realize this was a blessing in disguise. It was a sign. Cooking, sharing his creations, and further exploring the world of Greek cuisine brought him great joy; the financial world did not. So he sought ways to turn his passion into a career.
Kalofagas Supper Clubs
One way to showcase his recipes and get the word out, was the creation of The Greek Supper Club. It’s become a favorite of Greek food lovers throughout Toronto. Peter partners with an area restaurant. He selects a theme or region, and plans a menu based on food and ingredients of that area, and serves as guest chef that evening. These events became so popular in Toronto, he began getting requests to come to other cities. He’s held Supper Club events in NY, Montreal, and Chicago. He plans to visit more cities in the near future.
Word was spreading about Kalofagas, and by 2013, his blog was receiving about 3000 visitors a day. This caught the attention of Adams Media, publisher of the “Everything” book series. About 10 years prior, they’d published a book called, Everything Mediterranean, and were planning a new edition. They were impressed with Peter’s knowledge and enthusiasm, and quickly recruited him. Peter’s Everything Mediterranean came out in November 2013.
In 2014, he released of The Big Book Of Mediterranean Recipes: More Than 500 Recipes for Healthy and Flavorful Meals. Sales were brisk, and the third book, The Everything Easy Mediterranean Cookbook, was published in late 2015.
Though we know the Mediterranean Diet is the healthiest way to eat, Peter said the books are all about the food, and not the science. He shares his recipes, and things he’s learned on more than 30 trips to Greece.
“People should know that the Mediterranean Diet originated in Greece. I write this from the perspective of ‘kalofagas,’ a lover of Greek food. Honestly, when we sit down to enjoy a horiatiki salata, do we think about how healthy it is? No. We focus on the taste. I wanted this to be about the enjoyment of the cuisine. It’s nourishing; it’s comfort food, too.”
Sought-after contributor, expert on Greek food
Peter is now a contributor to many Greek publications around the world, including WindyCity Greek, and has appeared on television cooking segments in Canada. He also hosts cooking classes, and caters events. His blog, which now contains some 4000 recipes, continues to be one of the most popular Greek food blogs.
Kouzina and Kalofagas
Peter has been tapped as the honorary chef chair at the upcoming Kouzina 2016, at National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. Kouzina has become one of the most-anticipated events of the year, selling out each year.
“I’m excited to meet the other chefs and look forward to sharing my Greek classic dishes with a twist. It’s an exciting time for Greek food and wine, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”
Fresh from a seven-week trip to Greece, Peter is refreshed, full of inspiration, and ready to share.
Meet Peter Minaki of Kalofagas, sample his “twists” on classic Greek cuisine, along with those of a dozen of Chicago’s top chefs , at Kouzina, on November 3 at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. This is an event you don’t want to miss. It always sells out.
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