During a week in May this year, my PR agency Pleiades Media was involved in the visit to South Africa by renowned Greek chef Nikolaos Fotiadis. Thanks to an initiative by the Greek ambassador to South Africa, Ms. Maria Diamantopoulou, Fotiadis presented traditional and modern Greek cuisine to groups of diners in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The trip was intended to strengthen cultural ties between South Africa and Greece.
Was this just another event in a long line of similar (ho, hum) events? Was it simply an opportunity to wine and dine the travel and food media and score points in the big PR scramble?
Well yes, to be honest. But the Greek chef’s take on his nation’s food went way beyond the standard moussaka, tzaziki or pita bread. His was a quest to find the origins of recipes and ingredients, cultural influences and nuances that informed the very essence of a dish itself, telling a story in the process.
His seafood risotto, for example, was a beautiful earthy, warm, rich monastic stew, and, while served in the hallowed halls of the Pretoria Country Club, had all the smokiness and dank essence of a medieval monastery where its origins lay and sustained generations of monks in cold stone buildings through chilly winters.
Dish after dish explored the diverse history and traditions of Greece. Many of the recipes were centuries old, lovingly passed down from one epoch to the next using the same indigenous ingredients so lovingly harvested from the ground and picked from original plants and trees.
In taking his dinner guests back to their Helvetian roots, he invoked a sense of national pride. Bazouki musicians, men with grey beards wearing long black robes, crumbling stone pillars dating back before Christ, and the ancient Olympics.
Indeed, Chef Fotiadis ‘ Greek cuisine tells a millennia-long story going way beyond a box ticking PR exercise.
But then I have always believed that the best PR is an expression of authenticity and must resonate with the audience it is intended to influence.
If it is true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then Chef Fotiadis’ contributions to South African Greco relations have indeed found their mark!
Nikos Fotiadis’ viniagrette dressing, perfect with courgettes.
- 3 tea cups Olive Oil
- 1 tea cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ tea cup dill
- 1 gram saffron
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- Salt pepper to taste
Thanks to Jessica Franks for the lovely foodie pics – http://jesska.co.za/2015/06/03/meet-the-chef-nikos-fotiadis/