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GreekReporter.com Greece Nikolaos Tselementes: The "Father" of Greek Cookbooks

Nikolaos Tselementes: The “Father” of Greek Cookbooks

Tselementes Greek cookbook
Tselememtes’ Greek cookery book shaped modern Greek cuisine. Public domain. Illustration: Greek Reporter

Every Greek household has a “tselemente” — a “cookbook” that took its name after Nikolaos Tselementes, the famous chef that combined modern cuisine with Greek tradition.

His book, “Cooking and Baking Guide” was published in 1926, and ever since, his name has been a synonym for every cookbook in Greece.

Nikolaos Tselementes was born in 1878 on the island of Sifnos. He grew up in Athens, where he finished high school.

At first, Tselementes worked at a notary office but was involved with cooking on the side, while he worked at his uncle’s restaurant. He studied the culinary arts for a year in Vienna, and upon his return he worked as a chef in various embassies.

He became famous through the magazine “Cooking Guide,” which began in 1910, containing recipes, dietary advice, international cuisine and news regarding food.

In 1919, Tselementes became the manager of the Ermis Hotel and one year later he left for the United States, where he worked in some of the most expensive restaurants in the world.

In the meantime, he also received yet more higher education in the culinary arts, including pastry making and dietetics.

Tselementes Greek cookbook
Tselementes’ cookbook and recipes were extremely popular. Public domain

His book, called simply “Cooking and Baking Guide” was published in April 1926 and constituted the first completed cooking guide ever published in Greece.

Tselementes book published more than 15 times

The book became so popular that it was published more than 15 times in the next decades.

He returned to Athens and founded a small school for cooking and baking. In 1950, Tselementes published the cookbook “Greek Cookery” in English, providing an overview of Greek cuisine to the English-speaking world for the first time.

Influenced by French cuisine, Tselementes was a modernizer of Greek cuisine, as he introduced flavors such as bechamel sauce, sausage rolls and bouillabaisse; at that time, for some, this equaled to an adulteration of Greek cuisine.

He also created the modern versions of moussaka, pastitsio and anginares (artichokes) alla polita.

Nicolaos Tselementes died on March 2, 1958 in Athens, at the age of 80. He left a lasting legacy as the founder of contemporary Greek gastronomic culture.

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