The Travelling Table opens doors to home cooking and history

The authentic flavours of Greece, Ukraine and Italy will be on delicious display at the inaugural The Travelling Table, a pop-up restaurant event which aims to showcase the cuisines and recent history of Adelaide’s migrant communities.

To be held at Unley Town Hall in early June, the four day festival aims to immerse guests in the traditional cuisines and cultural histories of three of Adelaide’s migrant communities. Enlisting the help of grandmothers and grandfathers from the Greek, Ukrainian and Italian communities, Midnight Spaghetti and Roxie’s executive chef John Stamatakis aims to provide diners with a delectable but culturally deep experience.

Over the four days, The Travelling Table will provide diners with four-course meals and the opportunity to participate in workshops to learn how to whip up dishes passed down through the generations.

Stamatakis tells The Adelaide Review that most of all he hopes to highlight the lasting connection migrant communities have with traditional foods.

“From growing up with an ethnic background, you sort of subconsciously have this deepened idea about the significance of food and the role it plays in within the family and in social settings,” he says.

Stamatakis’ father migrated to Adelaide after World War II with his family from Siana, a village on the Greek island of Rhodes. His father then ran a local deli in Adelaide for a number of years. While cooking was not the profession he had in mind growing up, Stamatakis says a passion for food developed throughout his upbringing and drove him to explore opportunities in the hospitality industry later in life.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people and I think that’s probably something that’s at the core of all good cooks and chefs, you just enjoy nourishing people and feeding them, it just feels good to do it.”

As a member of the Greek Women’s Society of South Australia, Hellas Lucas migrated to Adelaide with her parents as a child from Athens in 1952. Having first arrived in Darwin before taking up permanent residency in Adelaide, Lucas’ family initially struggled adjusting to life in a new country, but settled to live here in Adelaide ever since.

Lucas says the festival’s Greek night will provide a way for the wider Adelaide community to come together in an intimate setting centred around food to learn about and experience Greek hospitality.

“It’s part of Greek culture to welcome people and feed them, you can’t leave a Greek house without being fed,” says Lucas. “We’re providing not just food but a cultural side for the night as well. We have a dance group who are going to perform traditional Greek dancing and a bouzouki player who is going to entertain the guests… [We want to] try and reach those that don’t normally experience this style of home cooking.”

Stamatakis says the menu for the Greek dinner will maintain authenticity but incorporate some subtle twists.

“We’ve tried to go with balancing traditional Greek food that’s made a little more interesting,” he says. “It would be too easy to just serve lamb with dolmades, we’ve tried to jazz it up a little bit and aim for celebratory dishes. So things sort of served around Christmas time and things that you probably wouldn’t normally find in a Greek restaurant perhaps, but you would always find in a Greek home.”

Many local restaurants that specialise in particular cuisines tend to focus on a fine dining offering, Stamatakis explains, but with The Travelling Table he wants to open the doors to anyone who is interested in savouring humble dishes they might not be familiar with.

“In South Australia we do some great stuff [in hospitality] but a lot of the focus is on fine dining, which isn’t very accessible to a lot of people,” he says. “So this is more about Greek food, or Italian or Ukrainian food that’s accessible to everyone so people can appreciate that this is something that mothers, grandmothers make regularly for their families and have done so for their long, proud history.

“I love cooking for big groups of people. I don’t often get to cook so much variety in such a short space of time so I’m really looking forward to the energy of the evenings and I’m confident that people are going to love the food, culture, the song and dance and the stories.”

The Travelling Table
Thursday, June 7 until Sunday, June 10
Unley Town Hall
thetravellingtable.net

Photography: Sia Duff

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