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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 December 2016
16 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 DECEMBER 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Kalimera London and Kali Orexi Greek former banker makes Britons queue for an authentic Greek street food experience THEODORA MAIOS W hen former Greek-born banker Télémaque Argyriou decided to do a 360° turn and leave his promising career in finance to open Kalimera, a super stylish food truck in London's city district, he never anticipated attracting so many businessmen, bankers and executives, who would line up to try real contemporary Greek food of culinary greatness that's almost impossible to find anywhere else in the heart of London. According to the 40-year-old businessman, who has completed a LLM degree at the University of Leon (France) and an EMBA at the ESCP Europe Business School, it took him all of half an hour on the internet and just 15 pounds to launch a completely fresh and exciting concept, which for the last two years has been bringing rays of sunshine and golden drops of extra virgin Greek food, sparkling verve and creativity to the heart of London. In an interview with Neos Kosmos, Argyriou talks about his personal journey from finance to gastronomy, his passion in marrying the traditional recipes with updated modern additions, and Kalimera's permanent new home in the UK's business capital. Was the GFC the catalyst for your life changing decision to abandon your career in the banking industry and follow a completely different path, that of the ‘fast food’ industry, or were you simply a visionary? It was the GFC indeed. After 2008 the conditions in banking deteriorated and I felt like this was not the environment I wanted to continue working for. I always loved gastronomy, especially the Greek one, and I was always getting upset with how underrated Greek food is in London. This, in combination with the fact that breakfast and lunch options are quite average and lack variety, made me think about a fast-dining Greek-inspired concept − that's when I created Kalimera. How did you come up with the idea of a Greek canteen in the heart of London, and how hard was it to overcome the red tape and various local government regulations? Did you have a statistical approach or use certain criteria in choosing your locations? The UK is a very entrepreneur-friendly country and regulations do not prevent people from opening new businesses. I think the difficulty lay in finding the right locations and getting market pitches. Catering is highly competitive and there are already many great concepts out there. Greek food is completely underrated and almost absent in London – not to mention modern Greek food. I wanted to bring this over to the capital and introduce something healthy that contains variety and follows the Mediterranean cuisine principles without being boring. How did the Londoners initially receive your idea? Are you the first Greek canteen roaming the city's streets or the latest incarnation of an established order? Reception was immediate and very welcoming. We are not the first Greek canteen in London, but we are the only one doing modern Greek food and also doing dishes other than just wraps. There are some Greek trucks but there is nothing established. We are not enough to create a movement. Yet. Briefly, what would one find on Kalimera's regular menu and which item would you say is your specialty and most popular one? Deconstructed moussaka, chicken souvlaki with avocado tzatziki and hummus, lamb souvlaki with mint tzatziki and melitzanosalata, salad boxes with meat or cheese, Greek salad with feta spread and roast potatoes. Moussaka is our specialty as we manage to do a very light one that suits the likes of the city workers, and the most popular is by far the chicken wrap.
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