In Greece, the word Tselementes is synonymous with cookbooks, but few people know that Nikolas Tselementes was actually a chef who had a significant impact on contemporary Greek cuisine. Born in 1878 in the pretty Sifnos village of Exambela, he traveled to Vienna to study the art of cooking before working in some of the world’s best hotel kitchens.
He also wrote a 500-page cookery book in 1910 called Odigos Mageirikis. Translated as ‘Cooking Guide’, the book is full of tips and advice as well as signature recipes and has become the staple cookbook found in every Greek household.
A modernizer, Tselementes is renowned for combining the best of Greek cuisine with that of West European countries. He particularly favoured the French style of cooking and his versions of dishes such as moussaka and pastitsio – with layers of cream sauce and cheeses – is what we have come to associate with typical Greek food.
With gorgeous sandy beaches, and picturesque villages of whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches, Sifnos is bound to lure you ashore and, luckily, its picturesque coastline is home to two marinas and plenty of quieter moorages. This makes the island easily accessible by yacht or tender.
Once ashore, visitors will be able to get a true taste of Tselementes’ birthplace, where the oldest of the island’s 2,600 residents remember him as the man who cooked for them while they were hungry in World War II and, today, chefs working in local restaurants strive to maintain the legacy he carved for the island.
The oldest of the island’s 2,600 residents remember him as the man who cooked for them while they were hungry in World War II
Among the hilly landscape is a plethora of natural growing herbs and mountain goats roam freely, emulating a feel of the ingredients that surrounded Tselementes throughout his childhood. Eating out introduces national dishes such as mastelo (oven roast lamb) and revithada (chickpea soup) which are still cooked in traditional clay pots.
Produced on the island since before Christ, these pots infuse food with a distinct Sifnian flavor and are made at 18 potteries dotted across the island using locally extracted clay.
Other famous Sifnian food specialties include cheeses such as manouri and myzithra, and succulent sweets, including Turkish delight, oven-baked marzipan and roast caramel sesame seeds.
For keen food lovers, there is even a three-day food festival dedicated to the chef held on the island every September. Known as the Gastronomy Festival Nikolaos Tselementes, the event welcomes both amateur and professional chefs from the region, who present their unique gastronomic and cultural traditions.