by Aria Socratous
Calliope Charalambous considers herself a citizen of the world. She is not a chef and as she says she does not pretend to be one. Her dream is to inspire people to experience everyday cooking as something fun, easy and convivial.
This is an idea that started three years ago when she first moved to Brooklyn and she realized that people in NY love Greek food. She also realized that cooking is something that she knew very well and she could share her knowledge with other people. She enjoys very much offering friends the Greek hospitality.
She was raised in Athens but she was born in Cyprus by a Cypriot father and a mother born and raised in Cairo by a Greek family coming from the Greek island complex of the Dodecanese and Smyrna, the great Levantine city, today’s Izmir. Hence, her culinary influences are diverse and rich.
“The aromas in my kitchen range from Cypriot halloumi cheese pies to French chocolate mousse, but the traditional Greek cuisine and my family recipes, going back to four generations, are really my one and only solid base.”, she contends
“The idea was to share cooking experience at my home kitchen in Brooklyn and very soon I realized that the audience was getting bigger, so I started giving cooking classes every week at the COCO MAT store in Soho. Then the people started asking about having private cooking classes at home, so it started becoming bigger and bigger. Now I have three main activities: cooking classes in Brooklyn and in Soho and private classes and events. The classes that I teach in Soho are different from the classes I teach in Brroklyn. In Soho I present four dishes that can be prepared in less than thirty minutes. In Brooklyn the classes last longer. All of my classes though do not require previous knowledge in cooking. Some people may come to me because they just don’t know how to cut an inion. I will show them how to cut the onion without a chef knife.The fun part of what I am doing right now is to urge more people to start cooking at home. This is the story behind the classes. People can join and cook together as a group of friends. I do not show off with chef knives, fancy utensils or specialized cookware because it’s not who I am. I am just sharing generations of recipes. I cut and carve mostly without a cutting board and usually employ my mother’s measuring method: an actual teacup. I keep it simple and make sure that the level of the lessons addresses all the audiences.”
Her cooking relies on the freshness of the ingredients and seasonality of the produce. In her lessons she uses always best quality, organic produce from small independent producers, local and Greek. The lessons include her favorite leftover plans plus shopping tips and small secrets that will keep the pantry and the fridge full of useful ingredients to be able to cook healthy meals everyday.
“I teach people how to shop in a more clever way. I want to offer as more dishes as possible to my students. I also offer summer cooking classes at my house in the island of Kithira and people can come to attend the workshops and enjoy the natural beauty of an island that is hidden and not yet discovered by the rest of the world.
The passion I have for food and cooking comes from my natural love for long and loud family lunches and dinners, where food is not fancy, but delicious, home cooked and simple – sometimes elaborate – but always made with love! This is my favorite social experience; it engages all five senses and leaves you with a story to tell afterwards!” , she claims.
Calliope Charalambous believes that the group of Greek foods that appeal very much to New York style of life is the group that Greek people call “ladera” like stuffed vegetables with minced beef, rice and raisins, green beans in light tomato sauce, briam (mixed vegetables in tomato sauce)
“Greek food appeals to people who love a healthy way of living and they want to have better quality in their eating habits. I believe that there is an audience that is really interested and I want to help them explore their potentials.
Her official website is http://www.calliopesfood.com/
The article was published today on Food and Wine Section of The National Herald