«Music for me is a way of expression. It is actually a feeling. Someone could tell you that he likes Santorini as he could tell you that he likes Bethoven. Both in music and in cooking there are no limits. The music is exactly the same, no matter if it comes from an Imam, from Tibetan monks, from Sinatra or Debussy. It is all the same, as long as they create feelings». Dark side of the moon, Rolling Stones-Exile of main st. Beatles-Revolver, King Krimson-Islands, Van der Graaf Generator-Vital, Debussy. Coltraine…Post progressive sounds…All kinds of sounds can be heard in his restaurant, Koukoumavlos -Santorini. Chaos, love, tenderness, sorrow, they are all combined in his playlists. “It has to do with the season, the light and the feeling of constant motion the island inspires. The volcanic landscape determines the sense reflected by Koukoumavlos. The music should pair with the dishes and the atmosphere in my dining hall. I interact with my guests every night and the playlist varies accordingly…”.
– Suppose someone tells you about his favorite music. Could you propose some dishes he should taste?
Yes, definitely. For me, music plays a very important role in the culinary evolution. Through the adventurous combinations in a dish, arise the concept of “affiliation” between cooking and music. This is one of the most spiritual qualities of a human being.
– When did you discover the relationship between music and your cooking?
I come from a very poor family and I was raised in the village of Aghios Panteleimon, in the island of Corfu, situated below the stunning Mount of Pantocrator. There it was more of an honor rather than an obligation, to play a musical instrument! Since five years old, my father took me to the local philharmonic orchestra where I started playing clarinet. My mother was a very good cook, so she was invited to cook in wealthy houses of Corfu during the receptions and feasts. I used to accompany her and I remember me, playing with the dough. My relationship with cooking, during my childhood, has to do with these images, rather than with ingredients and recipes… However, this is something that is stored on the “hard disc” of your memory and at some point it reveals itself. Eventually, what matters the most is for us to find our purpose in life. The job one chooses is very important for his success, or his failure, in life. Most people choose under pressure. I was lucky… During the late ’70s, I gave up many things in order to start cooking, at a time when cooking was not considered as a form of art in my country.
– So you first cooked in your bar called “Forum”, in Piraeus. Then, on the 1980, you visited Santorini. You seem enchanted by the island ever since…
Indeed… I was hired in Lotzia, in Oia. I was mainly involved both in cooking (in a very early stage) and in playing music. I was working 8 hours a day as a cook in Lotzia and another 6 hours (from 11 to 5 am) as a Dj at the famous bar “Harpoon”, in Oia… I chose to work on these two things that I love. Since then, I went through several phases, until I decided to open Koukoumavlos, at Oia, in October 1989. And within two years, the restaurant became so famous that we didn’t have enough space to serve all our guests. So, I decided to move Koukoumavlos to Fira, the capital of the island, in an amazing captain’s house. In 2016 we moved to the first floor of the Samourkas mansion, in Ypapantis street, in the center of Fira. From our terrace our guests can admire the volcano and, also, gaze at people walking on this famous road, also called “the Gold Street”, because of the jewelers situated here for many many years.
Admiration, respect, love. I know, some people say that Santorini has negative “vibes”. But if you combine the spirituality of this unique landscape together with the sense of destruction, it makes you feel more respect about the meaning of life and death, than you usually do. In a way, this makes all of us better persons.
– So you agree with the cliché that either you fall in love with Santorini, or you hate it…
Exactly! I’ve been in love with this island for 38 years!
THE CHEF’S PLAY LIST
Dark side of the moon full album
Exile of main st –Rolling Stones
Revolver Beatles full album
King Crimson-Islands full album
Vital – Van der Graaf Generator –full album
For your pleasure -Roxy Music full album
Debussy –best of