Two Little Chefs in a Green Kitchen

little chefs

 

Seeking to change their impact on the environment, Olivier Sax and Ileana Athanatou, the couple behind “The Two Little Chefs in a Green Kitchen”
initially made their debut at street festivals in Nicosia.

“We began getting involved in making food for festivals on condition that the food would be vegetarian, until one day, during the Theseos festival (in
the old town of Nicosia) a friend was reminiscing about vegetarian dinners in a squat in London,” they said.

This was the spark behind their decision to organise dinners to promote vegetarianism in Nicosia, admittedly a twofold venture. “The first thing was to share our sensitivity about ecological and health issues, so there is an educational side to the Two Little Chefs project, but it was also important to do this without lecturing, just by showing what everyone could do with local and seasonal ingredients.” 

“The second, stems from the frustration we felt about not being able to enjoy vegetarian food for dinner anywhere in town,” they continued, only to
teasingly note that their venture hasn’t solved the problem; after all, they are the ones doing the cooking.

Nowadays you can find them at Pi ke Fi, an alternative bar in the old town of Nicosia where their problem-solving is matched with the atmosphere of the place itself. 

“In a restaurant situation (as opposed to festivals), when we function as ”guest chefs”, we can offer more elaborate dishes, work on the presentation, we can afford to use ingredients which require more time or specific storage, we can also afford to share more time with our aficionados’,” they tell me and stress the importance of interaction with people as part of the pleasure of cooking for them.

In festivals however, they tackle other requirements in order to offer the same values, regardless of location. “During festivals, we incorporate an extra requirement, beyond the colours, texture and taste of the food which is practicality,” they add.

“There might not be anything comfy to sit on, no tables, so it’s altogether a different experience, and therefore we need a different approach, but in the end it comes down to the same values, which for us are, sustainability, a rewarding experience and affordability.”

The duo’s philosophy rests on two pillars, local and seasonal, which in turn are a source for inspiration. “We look at what is growing on the island right now because it means: less carbon footprint, fresher products and community support.”

“Beyond this we always try to think how we can propose alternatives for people who can’t eat gluten, or sugar, specific diets let’s say, and how we can make this into a proper culinary experience instead of a boring feeding process.”

But admittedly, their inspiration also derives from their travels in Asia, especially Thailand and India, where they attended cooking schools as they explored different countries. “And the local culture of course; we love Cypriot cuisine, there is an incredible amount of vegetarian dishes in
Cyprus and the Middle East, probably because of the fasting tradition.”

When asked what differentiates them from the crowd, they counter that this is not a question they can give a quick answer to. But they point to a difference in their purpose, to offer food responsibly – both as regards the person who will eat it and for the environment.

“It’s an ecological, social and almost political statement; a gentle activism if you wish,” they say.

“In a global market situation things seem to become uniform, because of big corporations, franchises and so on, but we believe in diversity, in mixing
cultures; our cuisine is our way to promote these values,” hence their choice of words for their name.

It was important that our name gives a clue about who we are and what we are doing, so despite the fact it’s a long name, it’s appropriate because we cook therefore we are chefs, but we didn’t graduate as chefs and we don’t like the pompous title of chef. The ”little chefs” rang better, and because we only use vegetables, green refers to the ”Greens” and is a reference to the colour of the ecological movements.”

Their name aspires to tell a story, just like in a tale: “Once upon a time, the Two Little Chefs in a Green Kitchen. “

Their story continues tonight at the 13th International Countryside Animafest Cyprus at the Kouklia Archeological Site but also at Pi ke Fi, once a week.

More information about The Two Little Chefs in a Green Kitchen can be found on https://www.facebook.com/twolittlechefsinagreenkitchen

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London