The beloved chef of Mount Athos, Father Epifanios Mylopotaminos, has passed away at the age of 64, after a long battle with cancer.
Father Epifanios was the popular monk of Mount Athos, who made known, through his books in Greece and the world, the monastic cooking and the nutrition secrets of the Athonite State – the coast where Mount Athos is located.
His cooking videos and recipes, made him popular, especially among the elderly community of Greece, while his simple and humble way of life, established him as one of the most loved and admired figures of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity Church, in Chania, Crete, said in a statement about his passing: “A traditional giant of Mount Athos monasticism has left, a good and kind friend, a man who made Mount Athos even better known to people, by offering them perfect wine and food of his goodness and love! The Mylopotamos of Mount Athos is crying. We are sad. Thank you for everything Fr. Epifanios, good heavens!”
Father Epifanios was the first monk to set up a modern winery on Mount Athos and put the organic Mylopotamos wines on the market. He also travelled and cooked the Mount Athos recipes in all corners of the globe, and was many times accompanied and joined by internationally famous chefs, such as James Oliver.
Celebrities of the political, intellectual and business world, from Greece and abroad, were hosted in the monastery where he lived, with Italian philosopher and writer, Umberto Echo, being a regular visitor.
Up until his passing, Father Epifanios lived in Mylopotamos on Mount Athos, where he cultivated vineyards, produced wine, and cooked for the Mount Athos cuisine.
Father Epifanios became well-known in the early 2000s for creating easy, but gourmet-looking dishes with few, affordable and healthy ingredients, while also promoting a balanced nutrition and a salubrious lifestyle. Through his cooking videos, Father Epifanios aimed to not only teach people simple recipes to cook at home, but to also spread a positive message of love and kindness, and “keep company” with his viewers and listeners who lived alone.
He also enjoyed discussing stories from the Bible, as well as current affairs and events, in an attempt to raise awareness about wars, natural disasters and social issues happening around the world. In many of his videos, Father Epifanios informed his audience about ways for them to become involved in good causes and help those less fortunate who are in need.
He had also written the book “Cooking of Mount Athos”, which became a best-seller in Greece, and has been translated into German, English, Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Spanish.
PAOK Football Club's major shareholder, Ivan Savvidis, also expressed his deep sorrow about the death of the Father Epifanios and in an announcement he stated that, “Orthodoxy lost one of her sons. A true Mount Athos man, known far beyond Mount Athos as a patriot of Greece, has passed away. A man of high spirituality, a talented cook, whose efforts made the cuisine of Mount Athos glorified all over the world.”
“I was lucky to have had a close relationship with the elder for many years. The warmth of his morning prayer in the small church of Agios Efstathios, which rises to the top of the steep cliff, will remain in my heart forever,” Savvidis added.
Born and raised in Kavala, where he lived until he finished high school, Father Epifanios went to Mount Athos in 1973, and in 1990 he decided to continue his monastic life in the Holy Seat of Agios Efstathios (Mylopotamos), part of the Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra, whose history begins in the 10th century.
In Mylopotamos, Father Epifanios undertook the restoration of the historic monastery in the area, and at the same time, with absolute respect for the long tradition, he planted a vineyard and built a winery. He produced the organic wines Mylopotamos, which have been awarded multiple times in national and international competitions and organic wine tastings.
He was also taught Byzantine history and art by older Saint Paulite monks, and during the begging of his monasticism life, Father Epifanios was a Byzantine music chanter.
When asked about his love of cooking, Father Epifanios had explained that, “I loved watching my mother cook, tasting and smelling her food. She would always ask me to peel potatoes, other vegetables and generally help her. I was the only one out of the five brothers who did it. Later, I learned cooking secrets from older monks, and I tried to upgrade older recipes. I have a peculiar curiosity and imagination and incorporated them in cooking.”
Father Epifanios was also a firm believer that Greek cuisine has the potential to become globally one of the most popular cuisines in the world: “Greece has the ability and the background to become the biggest gastronomical destination, if Greeks want to promote the superiority of the Greek and Mediterranean ingredients. I believe that each place in the world has its own peculiarities and wonders when it comes to food, but I think that young Greek chefs can promote further the Greek traditional meals and Greek products around the world.”
A recent statement by the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency said that: “Epifanios opened Mount Athos monasticism internationally. When he arrived in Mylopotamos, which after receiving in ruins, he turned it into one of the jewels of Mount Athos. For his activities, mainly in cooking, many documentaries were made that were shown and are still shown to this day in dozens of countries abroad.”