Cretans Know a Thing or Two About Good Living

Why did you choose Crete as your headquarters?

The business model we have developed can definitely be applied in many parts of Greece. Working with Grecotel, we have listed twelve different destinations. However, we chose Crete because of the tradition of the Cretan diet, which dates back thousands of years, but also because of historical nutritional studies (such as the famous Seven Countries Study), in which the Cretan diet stands out, in terms of its positive effect on longevity and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and of various types of cancer. The Seven Countries Study “gave birth” to the very term Mediterranean nutrition. Therefore, as my friend and Operations Director of Grecotel, Demetrios Kalaitzidakis, says, “Cretan is the crown of the Greek diet.” But there are also practical reasons. Crete enjoys pleasant temperatures every month and is an ideal destination to extend the tourist season. It is rich in places related to culture and to the traditional way of life. Finally, the Cretans are famous for their hospitality and honor. For Americans, hospitality in Crete is an almost legendary concept. The locals will treat you to tsikoudia, they will invite you to see how kalitsouni (Cretan snack made of dough, with sweet or savory filling) are made, they will share with you everything that they have. I have never heard of anyone who visited Crete and did not like it – and this comes from me, with family origins from Northern Epirus. The Cretans embrace the visitor and the project itself. That’s why I’m sure it will succeed.

How did the team of experts of the Center of Excellence get acquainted with the Cretan diet?

It is important to know about the Cretan diet, but it is even more important to experience and try it! Right after the Vatican, a four-day visit to Crete followed in early May. There, under the guidance of Demetrios Kalaitzidakis, we had the opportunity not only to taste local flavors, but also to experience the Cretan way of life. We were guided to the Lyrarakis Winery in Alagni, we tried apaki (traditional Cretan smoked and salted pork meat) from Kassakis Butchery, we visited Amari Dairy, we were introduced to the logic of fasting by the abbess of the monastery of Aghia Irini in Rethymno and we talked to people who specialize in all the individual food products. The visit was a great success and the participants left very satisfied. Although they teach healthy eating in the best universities in the world, Crete managed to surprise them with something different every day. The visit helped them experience the results of the Seven Countries Study.

What are the next steps?

We are preparing an international conference entitled “Cretan Lifestyle: Theory & Practice” for the beginning of November at Creta Palace in Rethymno. We are interested in developing partnerships with institutions in Crete and with Greek and foreign universities and to conduct research covering the whole range of nutrition, from production to consumption. Respectively, the scope of the center’s action is very large. It starts from providing training to chefs and restaurant staff and reaches the development of medical tourism services. However, we want to start with small and steady steps, finding partners and securing the support required for the implementation. If you allow me to make a comparison with the Greek restaurants of the Greek community abroad, which I am familiar with, from a young age, a successful restaurant starts with a short menu, which is to be enriched with more options only after the basic dishes have been perfected. This is how we should proceed.

Leave a Comment