DANAE TSEKOURA IS A PROGRESSIVE VEGAN CHEF WHO TURNED THE TABLES ON THE GREEK FOOD SCENE
With the motto “Fighting Food Crime Since 2009”, vegan chef and food entrepreneur Danae Tsekoura was among the sparse handful of young foodie progressives to break the traditional meat-eating mold in Greece. Troo Food Liberation brought raw, vegan and vegetarian food to the Greek public’s initially befuddled attention. They ran ‘un-cooking’ workshops and presentations and sold or served their high-nutrient/high-flavour culinary concoctions at many trendy community events such as Athens’ annual Meet Market, a festival of sorts where local; craftspeople present their creative magic. Ten years later, veganism is a normal part of life in Athens, with vegan restaurants, cafes, health-bars and street food being almost as ordinary as souvlaki. Meanwhile Troo Food has become a household food brand for health-food and vegan fans who buy their raw crackers, cookies and chips, seasoned in various delicious ways.
By Alexia Amvrazi
Tell us about Troo Food Liberation in a nutshell
Hello! We try to represent what plant-based food culture is about… eating in a way that is nourishing for ourselves and loving to our planet. We reject industrial food systems that do not respect life on earth. We like to create a bridge between what’s on our plates and its origins. We also create snacks for kids and adults that are made by hand in our workshop with utmost care and using good ingredients.
What are the four biggest steps you’ve made from when you started until today?
ONE I was an angry vegan, now I still get upset but have evolved, or honed, my emotional response mechanism by “attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Now I just try to cook from the heart and serve less judgment and more good food, and people want to hear more and eat more!
TWO We have created a beautiful workshop where we create healthy snacks that we distribute to Greece and Europe!
THREE Having children made me more sympathetic to all those parents whose kids reject greens! It made me realize how much ready crap they are feeding their kids too.
FOUR We are now about to introduce a fermented fizzy drink to our line called KOMBUCHA (very excited!)
What have been the main challenges in influencing the Greek food culture of meat-eaters?
Well, food is a very, very personal and emotional factor, because it’s connected to our childhood, our home, our caretakers cooking for us, so there many things that culturally we connect to eating. And, depending on the era you grew up in, food may be connected to what was missing or what was prevalent.
As a country that went through Europe’s worst famine during WWII, when meat was very scarce, the lack of this traditional ingredient generated in Greece a kind of unconscious, deep-seated insecurity. It led to the idea that if something has no meat in it, it won’t taste good or won’t be filling enough. I like this challenge though, because I love food, its pleasure factor, its sensual nature, so I love making healthy food but I love making it taste good too! I love watching the expression on people’s faces when they didn’t expect that veggies and nuts and seeds could taste so sumptuous.
How have dietary habits – both in terms of ethics and food awareness &/or holistic health changed in Greece & Europe over the past decade?
I think in this era of information- the whole world has become more attuned to the need to switch to healthier lifestyles and food choices. Greece is blessed with incredible raw ingredients growing naturally all over the country and more and more people are “rediscovering” our natural wealth in terms of herbs, fruits & vegetables. There are now amazing young companies sprouting up with original ideas, innovative recipes and quality products.
You produce several vegan/raw food products that are marketed nationwide (or is it even beyond Greece?).
We make premium organic Troo Food raw snacks, that have only pure ingredients. Nothing funny, nothing suspect – no preservatives, no sugar, no weird ingredients! Kale chips in three flavours – Greek tomato Salad, Cheesy taste without cheese with a cashew cream, mustard seeds & chia seeds and Spicy; we sell raw gluten free chocolate cookies, and granola. Herb crackers with almonds & flax seeds… and our newest product is our kombucha -a delicious probiotic naturally fizzy drink that promotes good digestion and immune system health, amongst other things.
We also make fun fruit rolls for kids to eat on the go! They are a no mess snack so they can even eat it in the car… they are sweetened with organic dates. The strawberry ones are like candy! We really, really care about what we’re serving and strive for the best…
What would you say is the future in gastronomy from the perspective of your own industry niche? Will it grow? Develop? If so, how, and will you be a part of it?
I can speak for Greece, which is a major tourist destination; so what I am seeing is that the tourist sector is shaping our future. For example, more and more tourists are visiting our country and they have unique dietary needs, like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free. This is in a way forcing the food industry here to cater to that. I am personally involved because I instruct the industry’s chefs on how to cook to suit these diets, and people in the hospitality industry how to be hospitable to people who may eat differently than the majority of their customers.
Are you still offering raw/vegan cooking seminars to the public?
Yes, I’ve recently started again, and I love teaching! I am also starting a series of collaborative classes with experts on botany, fermentation and other techniques. And starting the end of January 2020 Troo Food will be presenting a series of lunches and dinners with different themes and cuisines different locatiosn in and around Athens. We keep being asked to open a restraint, but I like the idea and flexibility of these pop-up restaurants more.
Nowadays people can find vegan products that were once unheard of at almost any local supermarket. Is that a good thing or just a trend that sustains the vegan ideal but is not necessarily healthy?
Well its good because it’s convenient and quick, there is not always time to make your own nut milk although that’s the ideal. Always be wise and read labels though; you understand a lot if not everything about a product on the shelf from its ingredient list, and if there is something you don’t understand, well then that’s suspect! Like in every diet there are healthy and unhealthy aspects and products on the market. Nothing beats home-made however. That’s what we have tried to do with Troo Food, it is homemade food that you can find on the shelf!
Finally, what are the top 5 Vegan hotspots you recommend to visitors in Athens?
- Yi in Glyfada
- Bamboo Vegan in Exarchia
- Mama Tierra in Monastiraki
- Juicy Bee @ The Apivita Experience Store
- Vegan Fairies in Nea Erythrea
Thank you Danae!