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Dear friends, today we present you a very special man, the green chef Nikos Gaitanos! Nikos is the most famous Greek vegetarian/vegan chef. He is very talented and his dishes are praised not only by vegetarians/vegans but also by meat eaters as well. He is very sweet, simple and warm. We had the chance to meet him a year ago in the restaurant he works in Athens and we got to like him right away! Let’s see what he told us!
Tell us a few things about yourself. How did you decide to become a chef?
I became a chef because I could not have become anything else! I have been cooking ever since I was a small child for my family and friends. I used to be in the kitchen, watch and help as a little boy. I have always been a lover of taste and food for me is a kind of happiness.
Tell us about your attitude towards vegetarianism. What drove you to this food style?
Everything begun when I was 17 years old and read a story about Ghandi. When he studied in England, some friends of his persuaded him to eat sheep and then he dreamt of the poor sheep crying. That was the first stimulus that changed my life. I got to know real love through animals. I have never been a complete vegan, my ideology categorises animals from fish and insects. I do respect vegans and try to serve veganism in the best way I can.
Greece and vegetarianism/veganism: how people react to your meatless dishes?
A few years ago that would be a joke! Not anymore! We have a long way to go but we are on the right track. Greeks’response to my dishes is satisfying. When I decided to cook exclusively meatless dishes I had two goals: the one was to make vegetarian cuisine delicious and the other to prove to meat eaters that vegetarian/ vegan cuisine was really tasteful. I have succeded my first goal and now I am working on the second one.
You recently worked in London. Tell us about your experience abroad.
I have been visiting England quite often these past 3 years for work.The fact that my work is addressed to a very large audience is really intriguing but I never meant to work permanently there. I had a very interesting proposal, so I decided to accept it. London is the gastronomical capital of Europe, the professional prospects even for a vegetarian cook are great! At the beginning I really liked it, the work conditions were good, the acceptance of people was warm but soon enough I got home sick, so I decided to come back and until now I had no regrets!
Do you have any plans for the future?
I live for today and never make future plans. The only thing I would love to do in the future is to give shelter to all stray animals, free all captured creatures that are meant for slaughter, open up the cages and set the birds free…I know it sounds impossible but maybe one day I will make it!
How do you react to narrow minded people who disapprove of vegetarianism/veganism? Which is the funniest and which is the most infuriating thing you have heard?
I dont consider meat eaters narrow minded. We have all grown up in a society which is based on the animal exploitation, our parents taught us to see animals as food and this was what their parents had taught them as well. But more and more people lately turn to vegetarianism/veganism due to internet which has revealed the misery and suffering the animals go through. Some people are touched by animals’ pain, some others aren’t. Can’t blame them though…Society does not change so easily. One of the funniest things I have heard is when I asked a friend of mine if the sandwitch he had been eating contained meat and he answered “no, just a little turkey!” The most infuriating was when a journalist holding a baby sheep in his arms and admiring its beauty and sweetness asked the farmer how much it cost per kilo.
Where can somebody enjoy the delicious dishes you make?
At Rosebud (Athens), at Roots (Thessaloniki), at Vegan Hippo (London), at Holiday inn (Camden), at Goji vegetarian cafe (York).
Which is your favourite recipe?
I do love all of my recipes and so can’t pick just one. But I think one of the recipes that my clients love is moussaka with soy mince.
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