The Hellenic Odyssey, a travel and food tour operator is on a quest to put Greece on the culinary map. Australian born with a proud Cretan heritage, Kelly Michelakis, founder of The Hellenic Odyssey, is a passionate home cook and travel enthusiast. Accompanied by her photographer husband, Xenophon, they make the perfect team exploring and reporting on Greek tourism.
While living in Greece, the couple travelled extensively throughout the mainland and to over 25 Greek islands. Now, the urge to explore has returned and in 2020 they will embark on a 4 month culinary and cultural travel journey throughout the country.
The Hellenic Odyssey hopes to inspire travellers to visit lesser-known destinations such as the region of Pelion, which hosted its inaugural gastronomy festival last year. The festival showcased regional specialties, including halvas farsalon, a thickened jelly-like dessert made with cornflour and toasted almonds and akanes, similar to loukoumi, but made with fresh goat’s milk butter. The couple also aspires to entice travellers to seek authentic experiences such as, learning about the art of traditional handmade filo pastry and enjoying paddock to plate dining and clay pot cooking in Crete.
“The beauty of the Greek islands and its beaches cannot be denied. However, spring and autumn reveal a different kind of beauty, attributed partly to culinary tourism. With the change of seasons, travellers can venture beyond the town centres for immersive local experiences rather than following classic tourist routes,” says Kelly.
“Such experiences include the Menalon walking trail passing through the villages and stopping for lunch at a taverna where locals are happy to open their hearts and share their stories, agro-tourism regional farm stays that focus on environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible travel, authentic Greek cooking classes including bread and cheese making, olive oil tastings, beehive experiences, olive oil soap workshops, and winemaking,” she adds.
Outside of Greek travel plans, Kelly lives in Melbourne and hosts Greek cooking classes and walking food tours. Kelly’s aim is to challenge perceptions surrounding Greek food culture. She loves to share her knowledge about the origins and philosophy of Greek cuisine.
“The Mediterranean diet was modelled on the dietary eating patterns of the Cretans in the 1950s as documented by the Ancel Keys Seven Countries Study. It is one of the most comprehensively researched diets in the world. Health benefits are both physical and mental. The food philosophy is simple,” Kelly says.
“Eat local, fresh and seasonal plant-based food, legumes, olive oil, nuts, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. However, the diet not only looks at what we eat but how we eat. Greeks share their food and their stories in a communal setting every day. Food creates a sense of community and togetherness, contributing to a more positive mental state,” stresses Kelly.
Greece is rapidly gaining momentum as a culinary destination to match its neighbors Italy and France, this is reflected both in the number and the range of food tourism products. The couple says this trip is to help promote Greece as a leading culinary destination throughout all seasons.
“The Hellenic Odyssey is a project created from the heart, driven by a passion for food and inspired by a love for travel,” notes Kelly.
*For more information visit thehellenicodyssey