Chef Maria Benardis & Greekalicious @ Natural Gourmet Institute


Life Choices

We recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Maria Benardis. She is a Gourmand Award winning author, chef, health coach and founder of Greekalicious — a current day culinary spin on the cuisine from the days of Hippocrates, Socrates, Pythagoras, et al. Greekalicious was a concept Benardis formed while on the Greek Island of Mykonos where she had experienced her life changing calling and epiphany. She has long been passionate about her Greek heritage and culture, and in particular the native cuisine where she spent some of her childhood years growing up on the remote island of Psara. “You can achieve anything if you have belief, faith and gratitude,” she says.

There are several Greekaliscious cooking events coming up this month and in November. Here’s a taste of what to expect.


Breaking Bread Together

The table is beautifully set at the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan, diners mingle with friends and strangers alike, the Greekalicious spread on this occasion included a selection of dips: Tirokafteri (spicy feta dip), Taramosalata (fish roe dip) and Artichoke Skordalia (garlic dip). Maria informs us that dips, often referred to as salads, are a Greek meze staple. They are accompanied with freshly baked pita bread and barley rusks from Crete. The Greeks were the first to ferment grapes and the selection of red and white wine on this occasion was made by monks from one of the oldest Greek vintners — Boutari.


A Celebration of Ancient Greece & Cuisine

Dining with Greekalicious is not like any other cooking class experience. Maria’s banquets not only include a fabulous meal being prepared in your presence but also entail a history lesson and interesting tidbits about the heritage of the ingredients, preparation techniques and her twist on ancient recipes. “My interpretation of ancient Greek cooking is always trying to find the balance between sweet, salt and sour. This is why I use honey, sea salt, figs, pomegranate and lemon as well as various herbs. Some of the best saffron in the world comes from Greece — we call it krokos.”

Hippocrates used saffron as a painkiller, for healing wounds, eye conditions and stomach complaints. Today it is believed to have cancer-suppressing elements and used in tea as a de-stressing agent.



The Greeks love to smash food and stuff them into leaves — they have been doing this for centuries. Maria’s interpretation of this traditional dish uses quinoa instead of rice or bulgur. She also chooses kale over grape leaves. Her fresh approach to ‘dolmades’ includes a sweet and tangy yogurt dipping sauce. Superb!


Filo, Feta and Philosophers

The tradition of pie making began in Ancient Greece. Every region and island of the country has a different version of the pie resulting in hundreds of different varieties. Maria’s Santorinian Sweet Tomatoe Filo Pie is served with arugula salad. The outcome is a delicious, flaky and buttery filo dough filled with juicy, ripe tomatoes and herbs.

Another notable mention is Maria’s “Myma” Style Ancient Greek Lamb with Baked Potatoes and Green Salad. Myma is the word for meat stew, the recipe was created by Epaenetus. Succulent, tender and savory, this lamb shank was my favorite part of the entire meal. In two words: Delicious perfection.


A Book for Every Kitchen

All of these recipes and more, plus a wonderful history of Greek culinary arts are in the book, “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health”.

Mark your calendar and take friends and family to one of the following banquets:

Greekalicious Cooking Class
When: October 21st, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where: CO-CO MAT,
49 Mercer Street

Greekalicious Cooking Class
When: October 25th, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where: CO-CO MAT,
49 Mercer Street

Greekalicious Greek Dinner
When: November 11th, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where: Natural Gourmet Institute,
48 West 21st Street #2

“Let medicine be thy food, and food thy medicine.” — Hippocrates. This sentiment still resonates today. When we feel better and our energy is positive, the effects show in our presence, demeanor and appearance.

Discover Greekalicious:

Visit The Natural Gourmet Institute:

Picture Credits: Saul Cubero Patiño and Greekalicious.

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