The talented young chef Alexandra Stratou.
Alexandra Stratou: not a conventional girl!
Alexandra was born in Athens where she received a foreign education at an English school and continued her studies at the Brown University of New York. It was there that she discovered her passion for cooking and first dreamt of using food as a medium to communicate and bring people together. The next step was inevitable. She attended a two years cooking school at Escuela de Cocina Luis Irizar in San Sebastian, Spain.
Back to Athens Alexandra had worked in a catering company, food websites and several professional cuisines.
In the midst of the Greek crisis she conceived the idea of writing her own cook book by collecting recipes that she grew up eating. Through a Kickstarter campaign launched in March 2013 she created a community of over 500 people, who supported her financially, and at the beginning of 2014 she published her book “Cooking to share”.
TeamBlue met Alexandra in Markthalle Neuen Berlin, where she came to present her book and cook Greek food for Berliners!
Meet the Chef:
Alexandra Stratou discovered her passion for cooking at the senior year in college.
You began your studies with Spanish philology. When did you discover your passion for cooking?
It was at my senior year in college when I started to make dinner a ritual with my roommate. My need to communicate with fellow human beings and the realization that food has an incredible power to bring people together.
How many years have you spent abroad and how did that experience shape you?
Seven years abroad opened my mental horizons. Experiencing different ways of life and feeling the anonymity of being outside of your own reality, where everything through the years has acquired a fixed definition, ultimately gave me the feeling of freedom.
Is there any taste or food smell that brings you out memories from your childhood?
Many smells and meals have a memory attached to them that I wouldn’t know where to start! My whole book will tell you all the details.
What does the food we eat reveals about us?
Everything. Food connects nature and humans and reveals the life cycle in such an honest way and the way we choose to eat reveals exactly how we choose to interact with nature and live life.
Are you in favor of Traditional or Modernist Cuisine and why?
There is space for both. I am more of a traditional cuisine though I totally admire those who devote their cooking careers to exploring new techniques that improve and control the imperfect world of nature. Modernist cuisine can also be seen as human domination of nature.
Is there any food that you refuse to cook?
I am very adamant about the way that what I cook has been grown. So I would put up a fight if I was made to cook industrially raised animals. I would like to refuse – though I am not sure I would!
The last years cooking shows are dominant in TV. Has cooking become a trend? What’s your opinion about star chefs?
I do not aspire to be a star chef or agree with all the perspectives out there, but think that there is room for all types of chefs to co-exist. TV shows could have a more educational character; I believe they focus too much on the sale of products and image.
About the book:
‘This is not a typical Greek cookbook, like those tourists buy to remember the meals they had by the sea. This book allows us to enter the kitchen of a Greek family that enjoys sharing, revealing their cherished annual traditions, and their ingredients and their life cycles. It inspires us to cook and, above all, to share’ Visi Irizar Director of the Luis Irizar Cooking School.
The title of your book is ‘Cooking to Share’. What is your food philosophy?
Professional when it comes to the way I approach the kitchen yet with the simple motivation of a matriarch cooking for her kind present at all times. I trace the route between the human being eating and the human being producing. Then I fill that route with a story.
What inspired you to write it?
The book is dedicated to Mrs. Loula who cooked our food and to our grandmother Sofia who taught us the importance of family. I wanted to connect to my past and understand it.
How did the idea of crowfunding come to you?
Embarrassingly simple: admiration for kickstarter creators, a desire to be one & the incredible access to the potential users of my cookbook. If it hadn’t succeeded, my cookbook would have been a collection of computer-typed recipes held together with a plastic spiral only for internal family use.
How many copies of the book have been published until now?
We are just printing our third batch. The other two batches of 1.500 copies each, sold out!
Are there any ingredients to success? What would you advise young people who struggle to work and create in an environment of financial instability?
The ingredients to success are personal to each person –but take a leap of faith, desire to change, imagine that things can be different. You create the path to achieving what you want; it is always there as long as you give it the opportunity to exist.
Alexandra serves spanakopita (spinach pie) at Markthalle Neuen, Berlin.
How was the experience of cooking Greek food for a Berlin audience? What did you cook for them?
I was a proud Greek. I wanted them to know that Greek food is resourceful and diverse and flavorful. I made rustic, down to earth choices – I gave them white bean soup, lentil soup and chickpea stew – I also presented lots of dishes from my book in ‘meze’ style.
Which other cities would you like to visit for a cooking to share experience? Why?
I would go anywhere as long as the reasons to be in that place are clear to me.
Do you believe that there is the ability for a market to growth regarding Greek food and products abroad?
I believe we are active agents in creating the market. We can make people want something if we do it well enough, so in a sense I think it is always a right time. Of course, Greece today is in the forefront of everything so there is already a wave moving to ride and move with.
If you could sum up Greek Cuisine in a few words which would you choose?
Simple, wholesome, modest and warm.
Alexandra Stratou approaches Greek food in a soulful and imaginative way.
Outside cooking what do you love most?
I love to be at home and in nature; being not achieving! I am also becoming a teacher in the Feldenkrais method, a method that focuses on teaching movement with awareness; I am totally enthralled. It increases an individual’s well-being, and also enhances the efficient use of the body.
Where you / your food art would like to be in a few years from now?
I would like to have created the space in my life where my love of cooking and sharing, my love of movement and my love of writing can coexist equally.
Team Blue is an international community that promotes excellence, innovation and enterprise.
I wish that you not only tap into worldwide stories of individuals that have found a way to express themselves and have gained recognition for it – but also that you find a way to inspire action out of these stories.
Interview, text editing and photo selection by Dimitra Moutzouri