A Conversation with George Vutetakis - by Renee Rudzewicz
San Diego resident George Vutekais was first exposed to the language of food as a young boy in his Greek grandmother Yia Yia's kitchen, where he experienced the importance of cultural cooking traditions through flavors, tastes and smells. His passion for food continued as he traveled and studied in India, learning traditional food preparation methods. After years of managing many kitchens, running a restaurant in Manhattan and cooking for hundreds of people in India and America, Vutekakis became head chef at Inn Season Cafe, in Royal Oak. He left almost two decades later to pursue teaching and writing. His cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions, is a collaboration of his culinary history with some of his most treasured recipes.
What does healthy eating mean to you?
Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice, in which food is as important as exercise or sleep. Eating healthy is a relationship that we form with food, and when we build a healthy relationship with the foods we eat, we will have a healthy lifestyle. For example, shopping at our local farmers' market or maintaining our own garden allows us to become part of the process and partners in utilizing fresh ingredients pulled straight from the ground. When we have a healthy balance of food, we maintain a balanced lifestyle, which begins when we treat the food we eat with respect.
Food is one of the most intimate things in our lives, because it is tied into our emotions. My experience in studying and cooking with other cultures has enabled me to embrace the idea that food is a celebration, not just something we eat.
What do you believe is the key to living a healthy life?
Food. Knowing your food. Once you begin to know what you're eating (instead of the food we buy packaged at the store, with an overload of foreign ingredients), then you begin to take the next steps of regeneration. The more we learn to appreciate the food we eat, the better we can maintain a healthy life.
What advice can you give about cooking?
As you prepare to cook, think about the ingredients you are using and the receipe you a duplicating, so that you have a relationship with the food you eat and are part of the process. The hourney begins in the ground, where the ingredients are grown, and moves to our kitchens, where they are cooked and prepared. I always shop local and buy organic, and I encourage others to do the same.
Why did you write "Vebetarian Traditions?"
For years, people asked me to write a cookbook, but there was never enough time. After I left Inn Season Cafe, my main focus became creating a healthy cuisine cookbook with 100 percent vegan recipes that any person, carnivorous or not, could enjoy. The history of the dishes and the traditional methods of preparation are included.
For more info on George Vutetakis, visit TheVegetarianGuy.com.
Renee Rudzewicz is a freelance writer in Metro Detroit. Her work has appeared in Traverse magazine, Hour Detroit magazine and Corp! magazine. Email Renee.Rudzewicz@gmail.com