His name is Eftychis ("call me FT") Bletsas. His cookbook, Mama's Pastitsio (Το Παστίτσιο της Μαμάς), hit Greek bookstores in 2005 and launched him into the spotlight and on the fast track to stardom. In a short year, FT has gone from student to author, songwriter, Web personality, and favorite television star with his own cooking show.
His television show, Mama's Kitchen (Η Κουζίνα της Μαμάς), takes FT to towns and villages all over Greece, showcasing delicious home cooking by Greek moms. The shows include FT's music - he's a talented musician who writes songs and sings about (among other things) food!
I sat down with FT between takes to ask him a few questions.
Question: When and how did you become interested in cooking?
FT: My food story started in a passive way... eating my mom's and grandma's cooking. Around the age of 10-12, I started getting involved with some cooking in the kitchen, always under the watchful eye of my personal teacher... my mom! Scouting also played an important part in getting me some hands-on experience. My first attempts at cooking (without help) took place outdoors... while camping. When I went abroad to study computing in England, cooking became a part of my everyday life. I started cooking mom's food on my own - something that was good for my health and pocket. My mom kept sending me recipes and I kept learning how to cook them.
Question: How did the cookbook come to happen?
FT: I thought that all of those recipes and cooking tips my mom kept sending me would be quite useful for other people, other students, other young people with no cooking experience. So I just said to myself, "I'll publish it," and I did! Together with the book, I included a music cd as a gift. The cd included songs about food that I wrote, performed, and produced myself at my home studio.
I did some interviews on television, radio, and in magazines, which gave me lots of media exposure. Some people saw me there and proposed the TV show.
Question: Tell me about the TV show, Mama's Kitchen.
FT: The show started in October 2005. It's not a regular "stand up and cook" show... it only has a 4-minute recipe segment at the end. The rest takes place around Greece, in small towns and villages. I travel around learning traditional cooking methods and recipes. Greece has extremely interesting gastronomy and this adventure is really fascinating.
Original music is a main part of the show and what makes it different from anything similar. I always carry my guitar and sing / write songs about food. It sounds weird but it works well. It's fun and people love it.
The things I love most are music, cooking, and traveling, so it's no surprise that they were all incorporated into the concept of the show. It is a mixture of my three main passions. (I also love snowboarding, sailing, and mountaineering.)
I am very lucky and happy to work with exceptional professionals: the production company (Prosenghisi) is one of the best in Greece, specializing in travel shows and documentaries, and the show's director, Panos Papadopoulos, is the head of the directors' committee in Northern Greece.
Question: What does the future hold for FT?
FT: One of my goals is to keep learning, and learning as much as I can about cooking, gastronomy, nutrition, and food history. I am attending seminars and cooking lessons, and I read a lot about it.
About TV, I am looking forward to working on this current project for 2-3 years, traveling all around Greece and probably abroad. I also have plans to do something in English. My five years in England helped me become familiar with the language, and I believe there are lots of people abroad who are interested in learning about the secrets of the Greek and Mediterranean diets.
A book with great Greek recipes from around the country is also in my plans for the near future. I am sure it will also be published in English.
Question: This terrific new career all got started with the cookbook, Mama's Pastitsio. Is pastitsio your favorite?
FT: My favorite food is indeed pastitsio; however I would say that it is not the actual taste of it that makes it my favorite, but rather all those childhood memories and images it brings to mind when I eat it.
Generally, I am mostly into the Mediterranean diet. I love fruit, veggies, grains, dairy products, and pasta.
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