Paying through the nose for mediocre dining

A simple rocket salad doused with tasteless balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with parmesan accompanied by a glass of white wine might cost 20 euros. The same price applies to a badly cooked fillet steak. Add a dessert and an espresso and the bill comes to 50 euros per person. Dina Nikolaou, owner of Evi Evane restaurant in Paris, instructor at the Chef d’Oeuvre School in Athens and writer for Kathimerini’s Gastronomos magazine, believes that Greeks are often exploited in restaurants because they lack gastronomic education. She has made it her mission to convince Parisians that there is good Greek cuisine. Her restaurant, in a chic district of Paris, serves rabbit stew with Mavrodafni wine and other dishes that she remembers her mother making. «Food in Greece is expensive as rent and decor expenses are included in the price. Instead of paying someone who is experienced and has the know-how to create a strong team that works well together, restaurant owners prefer to take on new staff at low wages and replace them every so often. The quality of the food is thus affected and the restaurant makes no profit.» Nikolaou believes that many restaurants in Athens attract people who have money but no gastronomic culture, who have forgotten the flavors of good village cooking and behave badly when eating out. She described seeing such a group in a restaurant: «They were smoking cigars, preventing other customers from enjoying the flavor of the food and conducting loud conversations about their holiday homes in tourist resorts like Myconos. In Paris the head chef would have given them a talking to but here nobody says anything as restaurants are supported financially by 10 rich regular customers.» Marios Kalfoglou, known as Kriton Papadopoulos, has observed restaurant life in Athens for the past 10 years. He deplores «reviews by critics who themselves may never have boiled an egg, which are often written with impressive language that turns the food into an out-of-this-world experience. Ordinary people go to expensive restaurants after reading such articles and leave somewhat disappointed.» And, he said, «nobody dares to lower their prices for fear of being called cheap, so restaurants are unaffordable in a city where everything is expensive. Most proprietors have no idea how to run a restaurant. They put emphasis on the decor and invite foreign chefs who make a fortune in Greece. Then they try to cover their expenses from Friday and Saturday’s turnover.» Kalfoglou noted that many of the rich also want to show off their knowledge of good food and wine: «Greek customers will not admit that they have no idea what wine goes with the meal and will choose a pricey one rather than a cheaper one whether or not it goes with the food.» All of the above suggests that only when Greeks acquire more consumer awareness and gastronomic culture will they be able to enjoy good food at the right prices in Athens.

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