In this latest installment of our Global Greek Gastronomy series, we travel to Paris to meet Dina Nikolaou, the Chef & Owner, together with her sister Maria, of Evi Evane, a Greek restaurant in the St. Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. I still haven’t had the pleasure of dining there but my husband and son both raved about it, and you know I have a soft spot for Greeks who dare to take their cuisine and art to challenging markets. So I reached out to Dina to learn more about her.
I discovered that Dina & Maria actually have three places, as they expanded from their original restaurant to a “Traiteur” (Delicatessen) and a more casual Mezes Bar. The name, Evi Evane, comes from the ancient Greek ευοί ευάν, which the followers of the cult of Dionysus, the god of wine, used to proclaim “to your health” or “cheers”. I caught up with Dina as she was traveling between Athens and Paris, which she does regularly (Maria lives full-time in Paris, tending to the business side of their culinary adventures). Here’s an excerpt of our conversation, which I hope will tempt you to visit Paris as much as it did me!
Maria: So tell us, how did you decide to become a chef?!
Dina: My gastronomic worries started at a young age, when I would cook for my family in our small village of Atalanti, in the county of Fthiótida. Even though I started studying economics and marketing in Paris, my passion for cooking and gastronomy made me change course. I began attending Paris’ cooking schools, Le Cordon Bleu, Ritz Escoffier, Alain Ducasse Formation, Ateliers Lenôtre…endless hours of studying and practical exercises may not have left me with much time, but they filled me with energy, making me even more passionate about cooking.
M: What prompted you to open a Greek restaurant in Paris, in a place where the competition is so intense? What do you think you can add to the Parisian culinary scene?
Dina: Anyone who has lived abroad and been tested there from a business point of view knows that it’s difficult to succeed in a foreign country. When my sister and I decided to open Evi Evane in 2006, we did so because we wanted to showcase Greek cuisine and offer the French pure, quality Greek food. Still, Paris is a place of truly global gastronomy, with foreign cuisine on every corner. You can imagine what an honor it was when, in 2017, Gilles Pudlowski, the creator of the French gastronomy guide, Pudlo Paris, named Evi Evane as "The Best Foreign Restaurant in Paris"!
Maria: How do you see the future of nutrition and creativity in a rapidly evolving and increasingly digital world?
Dina: I can only see this development of technology positively. People are becoming more “educated” in the world of food and cooking and that is largely due to social media and the internet in general. It’s not just the direct communication but mainly the "journey" of new ingredients that until yesterday were unknown words…and that certainly makes the world want to discover them. Recipes that were once hidden in notebooks have entered the everyday life of people in all countries. Greek cuisine is a classic example of this - it used to be that if you asked a Canadian or a Swede what they know, they would tell you moussaka and feta. Now they know all about the stamnagáthi and apáki of Crete, the ladotíri of Mytilene, the loukoumia of Syros!
Maria: You promote in Paris Greek products from small producers that you choose personally. What are the criteria for your choices? What feedback do you receive from the French?
Dina: Through my travels in all corners of Greece, I’ve discovered little gems that I think people need to know about. My criteria aren’t many, mainly the taste, the traditional way of making them and their uniqueness. At Evi Evane we import our own products and incorporate them into the menu, and we serve only Greek wines. For each dish on the menu, we do a little local report so that we give our customers a "ticket" to want to travel to Greece and search for them. The French are always enthusiastic...those who love Greek cuisine come and come again with the expectation of trying something new that will take them on a journey.
Maria: What is your biggest and craziest culinary dream?
Dina: I don’t know if it's a crazy dream, but it’s a big one for sure! My dream is to be able to spread Greek cuisine and Greek products all over the world. I want them to be known everywhere, to be loved and for people to look for them. I really believe that Greece must become the ultimate culinary destination!
Evi Evane has three locations in Paris: the Restaurant on rue Guisarde 10; the Traiteur on rue Saint-Placide 20; and the Mezes on rue Mazarine 66.
Zelos is passionate about Greek food and Global Greek Gastronomy, that fusion of traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine that has spread across the world. In this special section of our blog, we want to promote the people and places that we believe are pioneering this trend. Full disclosure: we DO NOT gain anything from these posts, we are not paid to advertise them; rather, we are honestly sharing our personal favorites for you to enjoy!
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