Creating a home in Cochrane for a cuisine boasting a proud 6,000-year history, My Greek Plate is finding success winning Best Restaurant in the Cochrane Eagle's Best of Cochrane awards.
Nikos Kontogiannis, chef and owner of My Greek Plate, launched the restaurant four years ago.
He hails from Greece and got his start working at hotels on the gorgeous islands of the Mediterranean.
“I was happy there but an opportunity to immigrate to Canada happened,” Kontogiannis said.
He has been living in Canada for nine years, spending time in both Montreal and Bragg Creek before making the move to Cochrane to launch My Greek Plate.
My Greek Plate tries to use as much local food as possible, but also imports ingredients directly from Greece to create one-of-a-kind meals.
Kontogiannis has embraced using different resources to find the items he needs to craft meals and has multiple providers he visits to secure ingredients.
It can be challenging, but in the end, it is critical because he can craft unique and delicious food that cannot be found elsewhere.
“I want to bring the people of Cochrane the real taste of the Greek cuisine,” Kontogiannis said. “It’s much more deep— I’m very happy that people understand and see the real magnitude of this cuisine.”
Greek cuisine is one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the world, even though it is one of the oldest recorded foods.
“The truth is very far from what the average Canadian knows about Greek cuisine,” Kontogiannis said. “We have incredible ingredients and I’m very proud because we invented wine, we have the base of olive oil … We invented cheese.”
Kontogiannis said he is happy because as a little restaurant they have managed to distinguish themselves in the community.
My Greek Plate was thrilled to win gold in the Best of Cochrane, he said, and they appreciate that people approve of the cuisine.
He noted that it was difficult adapting to COVID-19, he said, but My Greek Plate is pivoting to survive.
“It was hell, we were in an uncharted map, swimming in an ocean where we don’t know what to do,” Kontogiannis said. “Customers were afraid, we were afraid.”
After Valentine's Day, they saw a sharp decline in business until they were forced to close in March.
At that time Kontogiannis added he faced a fridge full of meat and vegetables going bad as he had no one to cook it for.
He ended up cooking what he and sharing it with friends and families in his neighbourhood.
“I would rather cook and give it to people and not throw it in the garbage,” Kontogiannis said. “It was a lot of food.”
After shutting their doors they were able to reopen in April for take-outs and deliveries.
Things are beginning to pick up, he said, as the community has learned to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
My Greek Plate remains committed to moving forward, Kontogiannis said, because he has never been one to surrender when facing adversity.
“We try our best, it was difficult, but now I think there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Kontogiannis said. “I hope everybody is happy, healthy and can enjoy our food.”