For chef Iakovos Apergis, it was the influence from his grandparents that inspired him to become a cook; his grandfather was a baker.
Born in Canada in 1974, Iakovos migrated with his family to Greece the year after. A few years after finishing his schooling, and after earning his degree in cookery, and working in a range of kitchens, he became a member of the Academy of Chefs of Greece.
His mother’s experience as a hospital patient inspired him to think of his connection with food as an experience beyond just cooking it: commenting on the food that she received as a patient in hospital, she decribed it as cold and tasteless, not something a sick woman needed.
His mother, who passed away in 2003, was a patient at Piraeus at Tzaneio (Piraeus General Hospital) and that, serendipitously, is where he finds himself working now as head chef, after relatives suggested that he apply.
Iakovos is starting to create change with hospital food because, as he says, food can be, and should be, a positive experience, when it can.
“In a place like the hospital it is very important to [lift a person’s spirits]!” he said.
His work landed him a spot at last year’s TEDxChalkida, the Greek offshoot of TEDTalks, in which he also revealed his charity work with Smile of a Child in Athens’ Peristeri; his establishment of other social ventures, and how he came to redefine hospital food (“because people have the right to eat good food”).
So now, he creates meals imaginatively “well-cooked and delicious, as in gourmet restaurants” and always according to the nutritional guidelines of each patient’s condition.
“I hope I make patients feel more human in the hospital and feel the warmth of their home,” he said.
Many patients have said nice things about his cooking or congratulated him – and the most popular food: the fish burgers.
“I hope that good hospital food stops being news and for us all to be able to better ourselves and realise that food at a hospital is not charity but a responsibility towards the patient,” he said.
“Let’s stop trying to seem human but actually be human and this can only be done with actions and when we give to our fellow human beings, [that’s when] we ultimately give to ourselves!”
This was first published in print and online at Neos Kosmos.