A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of featuring in a cooking demonstration at the Festival of Kimissis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Holmdel, NJ. This was the first time I have ever done a cooking demo or anything similar. It was a great experience, and I really loved it!
The Festival Committee has started to organize cooking demos for Greek recipes since 2015. Although my family and I are not members of this parish, the organizers, parishioners, and friends of the parish welcomed and honored me by providing me with the opportunity to demonstrate one of my favorite Greek recipes, Fish Athenian Style or Fish Athinaiki.
Let’s rewind time so that I can tell you how this all started… The Presiding Priest of Kimissis Tis Theotokou, Fr. Panagiotis, is a close family friend. One night – about 3-4 weeks before the festival – while he was having dinner at our house, we discussed my cooking blog (this site) that I had just started. He really loved the idea, and since he has tried my cooking many times, he was confident that I would be a good fit to present at the festival. At that time, there was still one empty spot in the list of presenters. The next day, I got a phone call from a festival committee member to discuss the demos, and 15 minutes into the conversation, I was confirmed to be one of the presenters. Immediately, I began to plan. What recipe should I feature? What steps can I prepare ahead of time? What equipment do I need to bring, and what do the organizers provide? Many questions began flooding through my mind. But I was so excited that I immediately started writing down every thought.
A couple of days later, I had a phone conversation with Jimmy (the demos’ organizer). I was informed that each demonstration’s time allotted was one hour, and I had about one hour to set up. I had to bring all my cooking utensils, pots, platters, etc., as well as the food to be cooked during the presentation. Also, Jimmy advised me to prep things beforehand as much as possible to lose the audience and have more time to interact with them.
At that time, everything was clear, and I began to lay down the game plan for the big day and the preparation days leading up to the demo.
On Thursday, I did all the grocery shopping, washed all the vegetables that I was going to use, and organized everything in the refrigerator and on the kitchen counter for easy access.
Since the Fish Athenian Style (Fish Athinaiki) is served chilled and its taste is significantly better the following day, I had to cook a batch on Friday evening, after I came back from work, to have ready for the tasting at the end of the demo.
During the cooking demonstration, I was planned to make only the court bouillon and cook the fish. Next, I would mix it with the vegetables, pickles, and mayonnaise and assemble the fish on a display platter.
My planning did not seize to fail me! Not only did I have a dish to present when the audience arrived but preparing it ahead of time allowed the flavors and texture to blend, giving a filling yet refreshing dish.
On Saturday morning, I was very nervous. It’s been years since the last time I presented in front of an audience – since the time I used to live in Greece, it was my first time doing a cooking demonstration. My husband and daughter were in Greece at the time. Having the people I love most so far away and on top of it, a seven-hour time difference made me even more nervous. My husband and my mother (who lives in Greece) supported me over the phone all this time. My friend Cinthya immediately stepped in and volunteered to help me. Her help and support during the demonstration and the weeks leading up to it have been invaluable. I am not sure I would be able to make it alone… THANK YOU, Cinthya!!!
On the day of the demo, Cinthya and her brother Aaron arrived at my home and helped me load the car with the food and equipment. We drove to Kimissis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Holmdel, and they helped me unload and set up. They also took pictures and videos of the demonstration.
Jimmy, the cooking demos organizer, was there to welcome us and help us with anything we might need.
The demonstration was a success! The audience really enjoyed my Fish Athinaiki (Fish Athenian Style), and I had a great time on stage. After the demonstration, Cinthya and Aaron helped me pack everything back in the car, and we stayed at the festival for a bit to enjoy the festival.
I would be lying if I were to say that this was an easy feat. It involved a lot of planning and a significant amount of work. But I will definitely do it again! It would be my pleasure! This would not have been possible without the support of my husband Nick, my mother, Fr. Panagiotis, Jimmy, Cinthya, and Aaron. Thank you!