Q&A with Nick Soulas, Head chef of Columbus Greek Festival
What's your earliest memory of the festival?
Just cleaning off tables. My father was involved from the beginning, as were a lot of parishioners (at The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral). My father chaired the festival four or five times, and I've chaired it three. My family has always been involved.
When did you begin creating the food for the festival?
In my later teens, I got involved making loukoumades, which are light doughnut holes that are like honey puffs, for the festival. Then I started volunteering in the kitchen and becoming more responsible for the food lines.
Are the recipes traditional, or do you put your own spin on them?
Every village (in Greece) has its own spin to making their food. The recipes we use now at the festival have come from individual parishioners over the years. I haven't really changed it that much-I rely on the tried and true of what people have passed down to me-and it works well.
How much food will you go through during a single festival?
We make all of our food by hand; our parishioners make any of the food in the food lines here at the church. I think that we will make 9,600 pieces of spanakopita and 7,000 pieces of tiropita. We will make about 8,000 dolmathes, 140 to 150 pans of moussaka and 160 to 170 pans of pastitsio. Altogether, that will require about 1,700 pounds of ground beef.
How many people cook?
We've got abouttwo dozen people who come in and help prepare the food. During the festival, I have a group of six or seven people in the kitchen who are responsible for making sure that everything gets cooked properly and taken out to the food lines. The food lines take dozens and dozens of volunteers over the course of the weekend [Sept. 4 to 7 this year].