A critic from Mirsini Lambraki, chef and author of culinary books
FOCUSING ON THE FOOD AND NOT ON THE EGO OF THE CHEF
Because we are entering the new culinary season and our eyes will see many new things and many our palate will taste, I am sitting and “koutalometro”(counting using a tea spoon) as my grandmother would say the emerging summer memories. The sweetest and strongest was that of the cook at the restaurant MAZI in Syros. I’ve been noticing her for two full days, I felt her temperate walking as she was carrying alone the shopping for the everyday cooking. After I tasted her food, meaningful, substantive, soaked with scents of the Cyclades. Many dishes acrobat on a dangerous balance in putting together strange materials, but while swallowing the last bite you know that the finale is magically completely successful. Note her name, she is called MARIA KRINA and whatever she touches reflects the enthralling scintillating energy of the person who feeds people with the distinctive passion for food and not with one’s ego. I am writing this as we enter into the new culinary season and there is great risk to savor again food focusing on the ego of the chef! And that in other times might have been exciting but now it is not the “substance” of the times we live in …
“Maria is both an excellent cook, having had her own restaurant for many years, and an experienced nutritionist. She is also extremely knowledgeable about wild greens, flowers and herbs and their uses in cooking and natural medicine. This makes for an experience which is both gastronomically and intellectually stimulating. On top of this Maria is a very warm, gentle but enthusiastic person to be with. She is also highly professional and committed. Her home, which she shares with her lovely partner Nikos, who is a painter and teacher, is the ground floor of a two-storey house. It is situated in an olive grove and looks south over the sea to the other Cycladic islands. It is a modest, functional home with nothing fancy about its interior decoration. As for the food, the tastes are fresh, varied and often unexpected. It is outside the mainstream of Greek food. There is something inspiring and exhilarating about the simplicity and easy availability (all gathered within 200 yards of the house) of the ingredients and the complexity of the palate. It also looks beautiful on the plate. But probably the best thing of all was Maria sharing her historical and scientific knowledge about the plants we were gathering and eating, which often went beyond the actual food we were preparing. This added an extra layer of pleasure to the experience.”
Rupert and Laura
“Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet!” [a quote from a British poet….]
Below is a little review of our day with you in case this – or any part of it – should be useful in any way:
Gathering wild plants and learning to cook with them in Maria’s island kitchen was a magical and unforgettable experience. There is something satisfying and wholesome about this approach to the land and to cooking. It nourishes the soul as well as the body, and teaches respect for the land.
Maria is a knowledgeable and delightful guide who has a relaxed and easy approach. We scrambled over rocks to the sound of the sea in the tiny cove near her home, gathering sea fennel, and foraged on the hillside for wild carrot, thyme, capers, and many more herbs and seeds. We then returned to her kitchen, where we drank an infusion of wild herbs to refresh us, before we began chopping and preparing our lunch, using the wild food we had gathered together with other ingredients. I was particularly taken with Maria’s use of infusions to cook grains.
The food was utterly delicious. Maria is, I think, rather special….
Thank you and hope to spend another wonderful day in the future on the hill and in the kitchen with you!
Aurora (also known as Susan….)
My first experience of Maria’s seminars was when I attended a hands-on workshop on making salads using local wild greens, plants, herbs and edible flowers. Even if I consider myself an experienced cook always researching on anything food-related, I was surprised about the new things I learned and unexpected ways to use already known ingredients. Since then I attended several other workshops and seminars, focused on the use of herbs and spices, cereals, food combinations and local cuisine.
My knowledge has significantly expanded and deepened, and my perspective has changed, and for that I will always be grateful. Maria’s vast knowledge of herbs and their qualities, along with her big experience as a chef specializing on the regional cuisine of the Cyclades, make her seminars unique for health-conscious foodies who wish to get an insight on the Cycladic culinary tradition. What’s more, her personality, gift for teaching, love for what she does and desire to share it with others, make her classes a pure delight. Highly recommended!