Argiro Barbarigou Showcases Greek Cuisine in the US
by Dina Pinos
When Mickey Mouse and his beloved Minnie replaced their traditional polka-dotted outfits and dressed as Greek tsoliades donning the famous, traditional Greek pleated foustanella, this past May at the Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County, California, which was completely transformed into a Greek village for the well-attended “OPA! A Celebration of Greece” weekend festivities, at the culinary helm of this event was the First Lady of Greek Cuisine, as she is referred to, Argiro Barbarigou. Magic met magic, as Argiro represented Greek cuisine, spiced with her culinary genious, to the Magic Kingdom mix, being responsible for all the menus including those at the sponsor and VIP parties.
The event coincided with the Gabby Awards weekend, joined also by the Greek America Foundation together with hundreds of its supporters.
Authentic Greek tastes included thin flatbreads; a classic gyro, with rotisserie meat and veggies; spanakopita swirl, the traditional spinach pie; and melomakarona. Nutricious Greek goodies replaced the staple amusement park food at all the surrounding food outlets and special carts throughout the premises. “I never recall working so hard in my life! I created over 24,000 covers,” she said.
Alongside with Greek celebrity Chef Argiro Barbarigou, Executive Chef Christine Weissman and her team of chefs from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks creatively interpreted Argiro’s . Greek winemaker Christina Boutari joined the chefs for a four-course Greek dinner featuring cod croquettes with roasted beetroot, arugula and skordalia; salad with caramelized figs, walnuts, pomegranate and fresh goat cheese; tender braised osso buco; and a trio of Greek sweets for dessert.
Argiro, trained in French cuisine at the Cordon Bleu School of Cooking in London and later at the Valhrona Ecole du Grand Chocolat in Paris, is a renowned cookbook author and one of the most popular television chefs – a household name – in Greece. She appears daily on the morning entertainment zone and she has worked with all the major broadcasting channels.
She is also a successful restaurateur. Her restaurant, Papadakis, which is located in the heart of Kolonaki, the chic residential neighborhood and upmarket shopping center of Athens, is a hit with both guests and locals alike.
Papadakis is also one of the city’s best celebrity spotting restaurants. Billy Zane, a well-known Greek American actor (famed for playing Titanic villain Caledon Hockley), has dined there. Argiro added, “he didn’t think twice about asking me for a doggy bag so he could enjoy more of her lamb and cheese pie back at hotel.”
Argiro’s website (argiro.gr) gets over 1.5 million hits each month. She is also dedicated to philanthropy, participating in fundraisers and cooking events organized by various charities, including the SOS Children’s Villages and other orphanages in Greece. Most recently, she held a cooking lesson at the Women’s Prison in Athens as part of the facility’s rehabilitation program for inmates.
In early October Argiro prepared the meal for the inaugural banquet of the Hellenic Initiative, a forum focusing on Investing in the Future of Greece. Honorary Patron was former President Bill Clinton and George Stephanopoulos Master of Ceremonies.