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Nikolaos Tselementes: The “Father” of Greek Cookbooks

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

Every Greek household has a “tselemente,” a recipe book named 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 synonymous with 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.

Tselementes became famous through the magazine Cooking Guide, which was first published in 1910. It contained recipes, dietary advice, international cuisine recipes, and news regarding food.

In 1919, Tselementes became the manager of the Ermis Hotel, and a 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, simply called Cooking and Baking Guide, was published in April 1926 and constituted the first complete cooking guide ever published in Greece.

Tselementes’ book published more than fifteen times

The book became so popular that it was published more than fifteen times within the following 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, by some, this was likened to an adulteration of Greek cuisine.

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

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

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