Visitors to the Museum of Greek Gastronomy are invited up a wooden staircase under embellished ceilings into a space presenting an educational and vivid sensory experience of the Greek cuisine.
“We had nothing to lose,” says Konstandinos. “So, a dream started becoming a reality.”
An ambitious team of four young Athenians, founder KonstandinosMastourdelis, AlkioniMatsourdeli, Lydia Damkarelou, and OmirosTsapalos, aged between 23 and 27, developed the idea of creating a museum highlighting the special historical and cultural elements of Greek gastronomy. The team has recently expanded, welcoming contributions and input from archeologists, chefs, and oenologists. The Museum also collaborates with research centers such as the Hellenic Folklore Research Center of the Academy of Athens.
“We had nothing to lose,” says Konstandinos. “So, a dream started becoming a reality.” This has been quite a successful reality; the museum has drawn in a large amount of visitors upon its opening in the summer of 2013. When searching for the location, the team was intent on finding a building close to the Varvakeios Food Market and the herb and spice haven on Evripidou Street in Athens. They wanted visitors to be able to easily combine their museum attendance along with other gastronomical activities in the city.
The moment the four founders entered a 19th century neoclassical townhouse in the Psirri district, they were thrilled. They instinctually knew it was the ideal space to host the museum’s celebration of traditional cuisine.
Renovations were handled with care, due to the detailed ceiling work and frescos in the building. The greatest challenge during the process of construction and design was blending the modern design elements along with the classical nature of the building. Designer Alkioni aimed to respect the building’s original character, while incorporating contemporary touches.
The Museum showcases the humble, natural materials found in every corner of the country. They highlight the plethora of ingredients and culinary tools found in the diverse regions of the country. The influence of international cuisine on Greek culinary traditions, and how these traditions fuse is also explored in several of the exhibits. Konstandinos says, “Greeks, from ancient times, love to gather and celebrate…Food is a part of our natural identity, and our long history. In a way, you can study Greek history through the different food habits of every era.”
The main focus of the museum is on local cuisines of Greece throughout history, and also specific culinary products. Exhibits use audio-visual material, screenings, photographic exhibitions, and traditional culinary objects for an interdisciplinary education.
Temporary exhibits focus on a very specific angle from which unique gastronomic experiences are illuminated upon. One exhibit, for example, is about the gastronomic traditions of Greek monasteries.
Greeks, from ancient times, love to gather and celebrate…Food is a part of our natural identity, and our long history
The museum has a courtyard cafe serving traditional Greek cuisine with gourmet presentations. “The main characteristics of our menu are seasonality, tradition, and quality,” says Konstandinos. The restaurant offers recipes that correspond with the theme of the most current exhibition. The menu that compliments the Greek monastery exhibit, for example, serves a large selection of legumes and greens.
The Gastronomy Museum has designed several events and programs aside from the basic tour experience. They offer cooking classes that aim to be both educational and entertaining. Konstandinos says, “Our target is for participants to experience the whole process of preparing a meal.” The classes begin at the outdoor market where fresh ingredients are chosen. Then the group begins cooking on the private balcony of the Museum. The lesson ends with everyone coming together at the table and sharing the meal they have prepared.
Wine-tasting nights featuring sophisticated Greek wines are also included in the list of the Museum’s events. Konstandinos notes that Greek wineries have improved greatly in quality and are among the best in the world. The Museum is developing educational programs that will include visits to wineries within Attica. School children are welcomed to the museum for educational programs as well, where they can participate in age-appropriate culinary programs. The programs aim to allow the children to explore the treasures of the museum and learn about healthy organic eating habits.
The Museum of Greek Gastronomy strives to provide an interactive experience that shared the depth of meaning and history behind the Greek food culture. “The main characteristic of Greek cuisine is that it carries the wisdom of many centuries. Starting from ancient Greece, food has been the center of social life, and, as Hippocrates said, food can be a cure for almost any disease.”
The Museum of Greek Gastronomy is located on 13 AgiouDimitriou Street, Psirri. The closest metro stop is the Monastiraki station.
Phone: +30 210 321 1311