A successful culinary adventure: The National Hellenic Museum’s KOUZINA 2017 drew hundreds of local foodies blending food and legacy

CHICAGO (Nov. 4, 2017) – The National Hellenic Museum (NHM) drew hundreds of food and wine enthusiasts Thursday night to KOUZINA 2017, an evening of delectable adventure hosted by and benefiting the National Hellenic Museum. The annual event featured more than a dozen local chefs who added a Greek twist to their recipes, along with wine importers who offered tastings that reflected the unique regions of Greece.

Attendees enjoy the festivities in Calamos Great Hall at NHM’s KOUZINA 2017
Photo Credit: Bryce Walborn 2017

Culinary experts who participated were Avli Restaurant Chef Louie Alexakis, Che Figata Chef Mark Grimes, CityGate Grille Chef Adam Tanner, Grecian Delight Chef Tom Leo, Greek Islands Chef Peter Kappos, Inspired Catering Chef Elizabeth Tokarczyk, Psistaria Chef George Bournas, Sinha Elegant Cuisine Chef Jorgina Pereira, Tavern on Rush Chef John Gatsos, and Taxim Restaurant Chef David Schneider. Each chef added a signature twist to traditional Greek favorites. The Dessert Lounge featured Giovany Zambonino of Donna’s Carrot Cake Shop, Chef Danielle Papakanelou from Le Café, Chef Athena Manolakos of Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop, and Chef Sophie Evanoff from Vanille.

“It’s a great event for a great cause,” said Chef Gatsos of Tavern on Rush.

Guests enjoyed wine tastings throughout the “Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago” on the 2nd floor at NHM’s KOUZINA 2017.
Photo Credit: Ron Hume 2017

“This is eight years at Kouzina for us,” added Chef Alexakis of Avli. “We’ll always be Museum supporters and are very happy to be here.”

Commenting on what makes Kouzina unique, longtime NHM volunteer Kathy Kaporis said, “It’s dynamic! You take something and add a Greek product, and it becomes unique and wildly successful.”

“How often do you get to have a Metaxa hot toddie?” she mused. “Kouzina provides an avenue for Greeks, and most importantly non-Greeks, for the Museum to become a global attraction.”

Sommelier Jody Ames of Heritage Wine Cellars gives a presentation on Greek wines in front of the “Reaching for the American Dream: The Greek Story in America” exhibit at NHM’s KOUZINA 2017. Photo Credit: Bryce Walborn 2017

Chef Evanoff of Vanille brought her father, an immigrant from the Balkan area of Macedonia, to Kouzina saying, “He loves the Museum and the history; the cultures are very similar.

“As a first-generation American this is near and dear to my heart,” she added. “It’s like I’m at home with the energy and the community.”

Sommelier Jody Ames of Heritage Wine Cellars offered lessons on the wine varietals of Greece and how to pair them at home using the NHM KOUZINA 2017-2018 Recipe Calendar.

“The Museum is a gift to Chicago,” said Nancy Valentine. “I am not Greek—but I see how much it does to preserve the culture. For instance, the information I learned at the wine tasting was of great interest and I will be planning a trip to Greece in the future just to learn more. It was inspirational.”

Attendees toured the Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago while embarking on a wine adventure through Greece. Wine distributors, Distinctive Importers, Eklektikon, Fantis, Fotis & Son, and Heritage Wine Cellars, lined the room with their tasting stations. Heritage Wine Cellars offered tastings of Greek sodas and liquors that refreshed the palette.

While the threat of rain moved Ship to Shore Merchants’ Metaxa hot toddies inside, they only added to the vibe of the Dessert Lounge. Rain did not stop several ladies from the Ascension of our Lord Greek Orthodox Church Philoptochos from dancing on the rooftop.

“We’re here to support the Museum and have a girls night out,” said Mia Connolly who explained that the group of women from the Lincolnshire parish, along with their friend Mary Kay Laurent from Sts. Peter & Paul in Glenview, rented a limousine for the event and plan to make Kouzina an annual outing.

“I love that we can keep the Greek culture, and show our children so they never forget what they have and what our family sacrificed to come here to the United States,” said Laurent, a second-generation Greek American, commenting on why she supports the NHM.

New to this year’s event was olive oil tasting where guests learned the flavor subtleties of selecting the right base for their culinary creations sponsored by international olive oil producer, Gaea.

Among the more than 20,000+ artifacts, recorded histories, photos, and historic newspapers preserved and stored in the NHM Collections, several thousand trace back to or include food as a reflection of the diversity of Greek culture. Museum programming uses these rich archives to teach about all the ways the Hellenic legacy has influenced life in America, including its kitchens.

As Devanco Foods CEO Peter Bartzis, a KOUZINA sponsor said: “The Museum is a beautiful place and this is a wonderful event to promote it and Hellenism.”

Save the date for KOUZINA 2018 on November 1, 2018, at the National Hellenic Museum.

KOUZINA 2017 was sponsored by:

Platinum Level

The Calamos Family

The Koudounis Family

Dean and Marianne Metropoulos

Gold Level

Devanco Foods

Grecian Delight Foods and the Parthenis Families

Kondraros Family – Dyros, Inc.