Panos Kekas

Interview: Pavlos Methenitis | Photo: Nikos Zappas

I enjoy helming upwind

For some decades now, Panayiotis Kekas has been crafting food for the mind as a film director and producer. In addition to his audiovisual work, which we’ll have the pleasure to see and hear in Paros and other Cycladic islands this summer, his soul’s laboratory has, for a second season, come up with a host of exquisite, full-spirited flavours. Oh, yes, he’s also a sailor, but “Rakenti” is not the name of his sailboat. It’s the name of his restaurant.

Why Paros?
Because of everything that Paros is: it’s the Cyclades; it’s the force of the wind, and the optimism the Cycladic light evokes; it’s the people’s smile, the open horizon and the radiance of the Aegean culture; and, finally, because in Paros dreams travel fast and reach their destination on time.

What is Rakenti to you, besides a business venture?
In the Cyclades region, a “rakenti” is the facility where the distillation of tsipouro, souma and the like is carried out. Rakenti came out of an inner voyage to become a restaurant featuring aromas, flavours and sounds of the Aegean. All the while, it’s a distillery of ideas and emotions; a space of meaningful communication among people of different cultures, attitudes and mindsets who share their common love for Greece and Paros.

What are you currently working on, and what are your future plans?
In my mind’s kitchen, I’m putting together a new menu. It will include a music show due for the Cyclades, featuring Anastassia Moutsatsou and presenting for the first time, poems by Manolis Glezos (renowned for his heroic act of ripping the Nazi Swastika from the Acropolis 74 years ago), followed by a performance based on the book Negro George. The Aegean tiger by Theo Romvos. In October, I’ll be coaching a group of Parian actors for the play “The monsters’ ball” by Helen Agathonikiadi, and directing fifteen video clips commissioned by the Cyclades Chamber. Finally, I hope that, in 2015, my restaurant will remain among those setting the culinary benchmark for the Greek tourist scene, having garnered the Aegean Cuisine award.

What’s the relation between the image culture and culinary culture?
The image should enhance knowledge, convey insights, and illustrate poetry and culture. But its management by the media has nothing to do with these values. The morality of the image now serves as a Trojan horse used to erode principles and manners and steer society towards consumption, individualism, and alienation.
On the other hand, everything born out of a kitchen appeals to all the senses, encompasses a large part of the local tradition, and unlocks memories of our long-forgotten culinary culture. A well-cooked dish has a soul of its own; it transcends art, moves, excites and gives you snippets of happiness.

What does it mean to you to sail upwind, both in life and in art?
It’s a challenge and, at the same time, a race against yourself. In sailing, my all-time love, you plan for the worst and hope for the best, so you should always brace yourself for the unexpected, as I’ve been doing so far, at sea and in life.
I enjoy helming upwind, fighting against the odds, struggling to ride the waves, tame the tempests, stay upright and dry.
This is how you get exciting experiences that stay with you for a lifetime. When travelling, either with my body or in my mind, I’ve always disliked ports – because the docks keep you on land; they’re the umbilical cord that keeps you tied to reality, security, and stability. I prefer the open sea, the immense pleasure you get from the blue expanse of water stretching out before you; the never-ending voyage in the ocean of emotions and daydreams.

Summer 2015