ECONOMY

Greek cuisine winning fans among tourists

In the Old Town of Corfu, visitors can enjoy a road tour that allows them to jump out every so often to taste one of the Ionian island’s traditional delicacies, such as cured “noumboulo” pork and ginger beer, as well as newer offerings including fresh ales from a microbrewery. The tour ends at a restaurant, where, after a demanding cooking class, the chefs get to taste each other’s dishes, all of which are Corfiot specialities.

Meanwhile, in Trikeri, a village on the Pagasitic Gulf in east central Greece, visitors are taught by local home cooks how to prepare traditional pies, which bake while they enjoy a dip in the sea. Upon their return, not only do they get to eat their pies, but they also get a small basket of fresh shrimp.

As Greece begins to gain a more serious reputation for its traditional cuisine and its gastronomical leaps and bounds, an increasing number of tourists are opting for tours that entertain the taste buds as much as the other senses.

“The most avid fans of gastronomical tourism are the Americans and the Canadians, but we also get quite a few bookings from Indonesia and India,” Lefteris Eleftheriadis, the head of Places & Flavors, which organizes foody tours in Greece via the website www.culinaryexperiences.gr, told Kathimerini.

“The international trend for good food has meant an increase in interest for gastronomical tourism,” added Eleftheriadis, pointing out that some countries, like Serbia right next door, have 24-hour food TV.

He also explained that gastronomical tourism is not just about teaching foreigners about Greek food in a sterile fashion.

“It is interactive and covers a broad range of subjects, from cooking classes to seminars on food photography,” Eleftheriadis said.

Food tours acquaint visitors with Greek cuisine, but they also showcase the natural environment and the products that come from it, such as olive oil, wine and a plethora of cheeses.

“We may wake a group up at 5 a.m. and take them milking before a tour of a dairy, or arrange for them to participate in the grape harvest,” said Eleftheriadis, explaining that this is not just a way to get tourists hooked on Greece, but also on Greek exports.

“I’ve had plenty of customers ask me what the difference is between Greek and Italian olive oil, or wanting the recipes for the dishes they have tasted so they can make them at home,” Eleftheriadis said.

Antonis Orros of www.culinaryadventuresgreece.com said that “most clients come from the USA. They are surprised by all the different things we can show them, because their view of Greece had been limited to the beaches of Myconos and Santorini. The other upside is that the season for culinary tourism is much longer than the summer period, as it starts in April and may last through November. Our tours last up to two weeks, especially for people booking from distant destinations.”

Orros explained that the company’s tours include experiences such as watching fishermen pull in the catch of the day on their boats and being taught how to make homemade “hilopites” pasta by good home cooks.

“Our gastronomical tours also include the usual landmarks and sights, because what these people want is to get to know Greek culture in all its entirety,” Orros said.