The word “Kilikio” travels Greeks back to their younger years, as the word refers to a school canteen. It was the place where we made the necessary stop during our breaks between lessons to savor a sandwich or a croissant with Merenda.
But in Paris, Kilikio is something bigger than that. If you meet a Parisian who knows about Tahini, Manoura cheese or Tarama, well he also knows about Kilikio for sure. Since October 2014, two young Athenians have made it their aim to teach Parisians all about Greece’s rich gastronomy.
A stone’s throw away from the Georges Pompidou Center, Kilikio, is a tasteful (by all means) delicatessen with colorful mosaic tiles on the walls, which offers a fine selection of premium and organic Mediterranean food direct from Greece.
Kilikio sources products from all over Greece, including numerous islands, where many artisans have kept their traditional manufacturing methods intact and that’s priceless not only for Parisians but for Greeks too.
How did the idea of Kilikio emerge?
Τhe idea spontaneously occurred one evening at a tavern. The next day we started making the plans. It took over one year of research until the idea of the “Greek Mezedopοleio” was settled in what later took shape of the delicatessen Kilikio.
How many of you are behind this?
We are two, Kriton and Stavros. Kritonas is a cook and confectioner, Stavros is an actor and aesthetician. Our different backgrounds are something that ultimately helps us deal with the situations more spherically, more openly. We want Kilikio to be a “colorful” space and not a one-dimensional commercial venture.
What differentiates Kilikio from other delis?
Once upon a time, we would have responded differently. Now, what we really care about is not to be different from others, but to be genuine and honest with what we do. Perhaps this is something missing from other delicatessens, perhaps not. However, we can’t help wondering, does authenticity arise individually or collectively? Is it a point of differentiation or should we treat it as a potential union rather than a disruptive element?
For us, Kilikio is a gateway to communicate Greek products to Europe and that’s why we remain open to collaborations that will showcase the quality of our place under a common roof. Italians have been implementing it for many years, while we often work against each other, it’s a pity, isn’t it?
Which Greek products do the French prefer?
Oil, honey, herbs are the easy answer. The question that needs to be answered though is: which Greek products have export claims? For our part – and to the extent of our forces – we are trying to showcase the whole range that our country has to offer beyond the already recognized products. Our starting point is a small piece of blessed land that has much to offer than what the rest of the world knows.
What do you believe was the biggest difficulty (or challenge) you encountered in setting up and promoting Kilikio?
First of all, we are still very optimistic regarding the difficulties. While facing them, we try to discover new possibilities and opportunities. The truth is that the difficulties are enormous at every stage, such that if we were not optimistic and good friends we would probably not be able to do it.
What do you think is missing from French cuisine regarding fresh produce that can be supplemented by Greek products?
Greece has plenty of products to offer, matched with every cuisine of the world. Likewise, we, as Greeks can borrow tastes from everywhere. Everything is dependant on our willingness to explore and experiment with different tastes. As for this, the French are ready to enrich their culinary palette at any time.
From what areas of Greece do your products come and with which criteria do you choose them?
We look everywhere for the best. We are constantly searching for new products and discovering every day. That is the most beautiful part of our work.
How easy is it to set up a business in Paris by young people who are Greek (not French)?
It is, by definition, difficult, but any business effort that starts from scratch is. Then, all the rest is added to the already existing difficulties. The lack of sufficient resources, the study of a new market, cultural differences, ignorance of bureaucracy issues, and so on. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t have been so charming if it hadn’t had so many unfamiliar aspects.
Are Greek producers ready for exports?
In relation to the final product, yes. Certainly, the “smaller” the producer, the more difficult it is for his products to reach beyond the borders. This is due to a number of reasons, most notably the proper training. There are various initiatives that stand out, but it will take time to get the best out of what our place gives us.
Your business card is a sachet with oregano. Do you remember the most bizarre, funny or special reaction to this?
When we participated in the Maison & Objet exhibition, a lady from an eastern country came and insisted on buying a few thousand sachets. She insisted so much that we had to show her pictures of our parents gathering oregano in the mountains of Epirus. We had to explain that it is completely handmade, with 3 different stamps in each, until finally we convinced her that it is impossible to be made.
What should we try when we visit Kilikio?
When you visit us, you will experience whatever your appetite finds attractive.
What are your plans for the future?
They will be announced soon. Connect with us through kilikio and our networking tools to stay in touch!
Kilikio, 34 rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth 75003 Paris
Open from Monday to Friday: Between 15.30h and 20.30h
And, on Saturday: Between 12h and 20.30h