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Athina Mazari

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Nas Ikaria

We are excited for you to meet Athina Mazari, she is from Ikaria, a breathtaking and unique island in the Eastern Aegean. Because Athina has spent her entire life there, you can be sure that her approach to cooking is decidedly Ikarian!  Simply put, this means Athina approaches her cooking with the same style and philosophy most Ikarians live their lives....with a traditional, yet progressive and independent spirit. This island is a combination of dry areas, lush green forests, plenty of rain and even some snow on the mountain tops, which reach about 1,000 meters. Due to this varietal geography and location, Ikaria is fortunate to have four distinct seasons. This brings us to one of the most important characteristics Athina says influences her cooking, both at home and in Thea's Restaurant, seasonality! For the past 25 years Athina has been cooking professionally and has found that for her, the way to guarantee the most wholesome and delicious food is cooking seasonally. She feels that by planning meals largely by what's available in the garden and keeping the seasoning to all natural herbs and spices, the result is that the food tastes exactly as it is meant to. For example, the best time to eat tomatoes in Greece is summer! This is why "yemista" (stuffed tomatoes) is such a popular summer dish. Or simply try using fresh herbs instead of dried, it makes such a difference.
Athina joined Thea's restaurant seven years ago. This family run restaurant and farm was a perfect fit for her, as they shared the same ideals and beliefs when it came to preparing, as well as enjoying quality food. These beliefs are strongly grounded in the notion that food and mealtime should not only satiate your appetite, but should make you feel good emotionally as well. For Athina, there's no better feeling than walking into someone's home or into a restaurant and smelling what's simmering on the stovetop or baking in the oven. It's all part of the dining experience.  
While the Ikarian diet is centered largely on vegetables, pulses and beans, and of course seafood, there is still room for meat, rice or pasta. The difference is that meat plays more of a supporting role. You'll find lots of vegetables with a smaller portions of meat mixed in or on the side. And don't forget the the savory pies, right now spinach is in full season at Thea's, you can count on yummy, fresh spanakopita. Be assured that no matter what your preference, all the ingredients that go into your meal, are either grown or produced in the most natural way, no chemicals, no pesticides and happy animals.    
One final thought from Athina, I'll remember this when I'm missing my strawberries. If you ever feel constrained by letting the seasons guide you in the kitchen, try looking at it a little differently and appreciate that with each change of season you'll always have something new to look forward to.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Ikaria, you definitely must stop by Thea's for an amazing meal, a cooking lesson or an adventure in identifying and picking wild herbs. I did all of the above and it was such a treat!