Selene's 30 years anniversary!

An account by Yiorgos Hatziyannakis.

It was long ago, in 1986, when we thought with my wife Evelyn to open a restaurant in Santorini. We were not restaurateurs but we were in love with the island. We knew it well, as we have been visiting it for 10 years and felt deeply attached to the unique volcanic landscape, its history but also to its simple, rare, waterless products.

It was difficult back then to promote the local and Greek cuisine in general.  For the Greek public it was completely out of fashion and for the foreigners quite exotic, as they would think of Greek cuisine only mousaka, souvlaki, tzatziki etc.The rebirth of the Santorini vineyards in the beginning of the '90s, the interest of some Greek but mostly foreign connoisseurs visitors was our chance to bring forward the local cuisine.

So along with the wine and the efforts of local producers, Santorini cuisine developed.  A lot of new dishes which combine local products are added to the restaurant's menu, slowly this concept expands and spreads through different kinds of acts and events, like catering for conferences and weddings, tastings and presentation of local produce to journalists, as well as, through various gastronomical organizations like Slow Food, Archestratos, the Worldwide Sommelier Association, HEPO, specific conferences on local products by "Heliotopos". All of those actions suggest what it follows: the wineries open to the visitors for tasting, more and more tavernas and restaurants embrace the local cuisine, the market of local products rises up and, thanks to the visitors, another profitable economic activity develops[1].

The next step for us, were the cooking courses. Evelyn's idea to combine the breathtaking landscape that surrounded Selene's former location with acquaintance and tasting of Santorini products proved a unique gastronomic experience for our guests that helped to promote not only our work but the island itself.

The great grief that we faced in 2005 with Evelyn's loss, caused us inevitably to question whether we should continue or not. Our colleague Georgia Tsara insists on making a collective effort to carry on. Selene continues its successful course and becomes an ambassador of the island's cuisine.

However, in 2010, the same question is imposed again as, after 24 years of operation we are asked to leave the place where Selene was born, raised and connected with. Again, we decide to carry on, having ahead of us the financial crisis. We restructure our aspirations with the aim, in a few years, to constitute an integral gastronomic destination and with that in mind we made our choices.

We chose Pyrgos for our relocation, one of the most beautiful and probably the best well-preserved village of Santorini, built around a medieval castle, in the centre of the island, amongst the famous vineyards and the valuable farmland of Santorini.

This unmediated relationship with the agricultural land suggests exactly Selene's association with the gastronomic culture of the island. What is more Selene is located within the same building complex as the Cultural Village, a folklore museum dedicated to the rural life of the island.

In the new location we decided to separate Selene in two: Selene restaurant (only for fine dinning) continues its modernist approach on Greek cuisine and Selenemeze & winewhich operates as a taverna, a simpler all-day approach with mostly traditional dishes and exclusively Santorini wines from all the island's producers.  The cooking courses are continued, more actively than ever,by Georgia Tsara, adding more choices and flexibility through the Selene Experience programs and always in collaboration with Cultural Village and "Estia" foundation of Pyrgos.

Stepping into our 30th year, we initiated also Selene's Selection, which operates as a small delicatessen shop in Selene Meze & wine , and is a selection of  the best -in our opinion- premium Greek products, which we use also in the restaurant.

Our intention is, just the same with the Santorini wines, our guests to get to know them, appreciate them and seek them in their countries.

Last but not least, Cultural Village is inaugurating some new guest rooms for gastronomy friends and Selene continues its room-service collaboration with boutique and luxury hotels like "Voreina".

All the above, with the chance of the 30 year celebration of Selene, aim to establish Santorini as what it should be: a unique gastronomic destination.

Finally, I just want to note that that I have used plural because Selene is not the work of one person but of internal and external collaboration of people who loved it and believed in the relationship between gastronomy and tourism.

The acknowledgement of all this work , the awards, the honoring publications and the creation of loyal clientele have taken away all questions and doubts and dictate the only way which is to carry on.

Aiming to the next…100 years, we are for now celebrating through different events the 30 and we deeply thank everyone that helped and believed in us.

 



[1] The announcement of 2013 as the year Gastronomy in Santorini, by the local municipality -that we embraced wholeheartedly- and its success was the recognition of all those efforts.

 

 


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