Cooking Up Stories: Isabella’s Greek Kitchen Experience

A journey of food, stories, and unforgettable cooking classes in the heart of Athens.


By Isabella Zampetaki 

As a food and travel writer, I’ve had the opportunity to sample some of the best artisanal products, regional specialties, and unique culinary experiences from across Greece. Throughout the years, people have spoiled me with their kindness, generosity, and hospitality. I realized that now is the time in my life to start giving back.

I’ve always loved throwing Sunday meals for friends and family, spending the whole day putting together recipes, combining the old with the new, and selecting the right ingredients to create a harmonious meal. The majority of the ingredients are sourced from farmers’ markets, and some are even grown in my vegetable garden; a delicate, demanding, but ultimately rewarding task. 

This spring, I decided to offer the same experience to people I do not necessarily know but would like to meet around a kitchen stove or dinner table. So, once a week, I host a “secret cooking class” in downtown Athens. “Isabella proves that journalists can cook! I’ve been a great fan of her stories and books for years, but it is even more exciting to finally meet her. Despite my Greek heritage, her cooking class taught me many things I didn’t know. She turns the kitchen into a place of joy!” says Katie L., who thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

The cooking classes take place at the cool cellar of the Artist Hotel. The cellar is stocked with traditional Greek foods, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil, ensuring that we have everything we need for our five-course dinner. As we cook, I will reveal secrets ranging from simple hints passed down through generations to insights learned from Greece’s culinary tradition.  We will talk about the secret herb gardens people kept in the Middle Ages, plants that were grown for medicinal use, or how the rebels used to cook lamb by burying it in the ground during Ottoman rule.

My favorite part is when we make our own herb bread and I tell you about the spell the villagers used to keep weasels away from their chickens! Both instances demonstrate the close connection that exists between people and food. To make each session unique, I always aim to take into account my guests’ particular interests and complement them with fresh stories I hear while traveling. At the end of each meeting, I hope everyone will have the opportunity to reflect on what cooking and eating together mean to them. My cooking experience with Isabella reminded me of my childhood, when I would sneak into mom and grandma’s kitchen. Back then, each meal had a tale (or more) to tell. Isabella’s food has a traditional, nostalgic, and genuinely delicious flavor. I was amazed by the magical atmosphere she created, and for a moment I felt like I was wearing the handmade apron my grandmother used to wear while she cooked in the kitchen,” says Mikela M, who took part in one of our recent sessions. 

After preparing our meal, we proceed from the cellar to a dinner table reserved for us on the Artist Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. With a view of the Acropolis, we enjoy a meal consisting of herbal bread rolls, fava, dakos salad with a twist, veal with orzo giouvetsi, and Greek chocolate mousse.

 

Cellar Secrets takes place every Wednesday at 4 p.m. at The Artist’s Hotel Cellar, 7 Kalamida, near Monastiraki metro station.

It lasts for three hours, costs 140 euros per person, and is followed by dinner with a breathtaking view of the Acropolis. For reservations, please call 210 323 8012 or email [email protected].

About the author

Isabella has been reporting on Greece’s most genuine local products for over 15 years. For her first book, “Handcrafted Crete,” she visited olive fields, mountain summits, and shepherds’ cottages to sample some of the island’s most famous items. In “Why Eat?” she asks a dietician, a doctor, and a psychologist 100 questions about the whys and whats of eating. When she is not in the cellar, she speaks about food culture and well-being at conferences and dinner parties or grows organic vegetables and herbs in her 20-square-meter urban plot in Athens.



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