The Grown-Up Table
A Special Father's Day Story: Michael Kosmides
Kalamata's Kitchen illustrator Jo Edwards reflects on her father's impact on her relationship with food and the world around it.
"My dad has cooked in, owned, and managed restaurants his whole life, and some of my favorite memories are of sitting in his restaurants, watching him work, and being fed. I learned so much about Greek culture and food from him. He’d create something delicious and bring it out to us and ask—and really care—what we thought about it. It was almost like an artist showing off a painting. People would come up to me and say things like, ‘do you know how amazing your dad is? Do you know how kind he is? How delicious his food is?’ And I was so proud of that. His talent and warmth was such a source of pride for me. It made me so happy to see that everybody who knew him loved him. He gave me such confidence, because he’d let me be the one to taste something, and really care about what I thought about it. And I think the pride went both ways— he used to take me to this restaurant called The Hellenic Flame, and one time he ordered liver for me. I had no idea what it was, but I ate it and thought it was delicious, and I can remember him telling his friends, ‘my daughter will eat anything!’ And he was so proud, and I loved that. It became fun for him to watch me try everything, and that made me feel so special.”
“I think we became so close because he let me do things. He didn’t just do stuff for me, or dictate exactly how something had to be done—he let me try things out and experiment. For example, my job was putting the salads together for dinner. He had a saying about it, ‘You need 3 Greeks to make a salad: a heavy handed person for the salt, a stingy handed person for the oil, and a crazy person to toss it.’ And I got to taste my way through that process. And then he’d say, ‘put a little Greek salt on it.’ Greek salt is lemon. We put lemon on everything. He took me to Greece to really show me where ingredients came from, and I can remember being in an oregano field and watching people pick and dry this herb that we put in everything. He took such great pride in the Greeks and their food traditions and inventions and ingredients, and he always shared that pride with the people around him.”
“My dad was formally trained—he had a full culinary scholarship to the school of hospitality at Cornell—but I also think cooking is in his genes. His mother, Aphrodite, was very gifted in the kitchen. People always said, ‘Just give Aphrodite a pot of water and she’ll make something delicious.’ Greek culture is very hospitable—I think food is definitely a love language for them. They don’t just want to feed you though, they want to really know that you love what they love. I think he got the most joy from being so excited about something he cooked, sharing it, and then watching the person eating it love it too. I think the first time I ever experienced that feeling outside of my family was with the Kalamata’s Kitchen team. Our first team trip, Derek was so excited to set up exactly what we were going to eat and was even more excited to watch us love the things he loved. And that feeling—that’s just like my dad."
As told to Sarah Thomas.