Record of Change

For the first time in a long time, it feels like all people on Earth have something in common. An exploration of what unites us in a time of social distancing, we visit and re-visit people in Hongkong and India, Greece and Gaza, among other places.

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episode 14: Athens: Waiting for Christmas [transcript]


Even as he's optimistic about the second lockdown in Greece through November, Alkis shares his trepidation about the uncertainty looming around Christmas season. For now though, he's busy revamping his menu.

This episode was recorded on November 6, 2020.

Guest Alkaios Michail, Athens, Greece

Alkis is an Athens based architect / urban designer turned hospitality entrepreneur. His organic vegan restaurant Winners Vgn opened recently in Athens just as the lockdown went into effect, throwing things into uncertain territory.

There's one other episode with Alkis:

  • Athens: Go vegan, go local
Additional Shownotes

More about Record of Change and this episode, including a transcript, in the post for this episode on our website: recordofchange.com

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Credits
  • Thomas Reintjes (Post Production)
  • Prathap Nair (Host, Producer)

An Huy Tran, Matthias Jochmann, Kecheng Fang and Stephanie Raible also helped make this episode.


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 2020-11-29  15m
 
 
00:08  Prathap Nair
Welcome to the second season of Record of Change.
00:11
I’m Prathap Nair, your host for this episode.
00:14
Here at the podcast, we follow eight people from different parts of the world to understand how the covid 19 pandemic is shaping their lives.
00:22
Today, we’re returning to Athens to check in on Alkis, the vegan chef at his organic restaurant called Winners.
00:32
Even with restrictions in place, Winners has had a successful run in the past few months according to Alkis.
00:38
However, to combat the rising cases, Greece went into a second lockdown for three weeks in November.
00:45
Alkis says he’s better prepared this time around.
00:48
He’s spending the second lockdown revising his menu.
00:51
Besides, there’s also the new PS5 to be excited about.
01:05
Over to our conversation.
01:05
Thanks for doing this the second time.
01:07  Alkis Michail
No worries, my pleasure.
01:09  Prathap Nair
It seems like your prime minister just announced that you're going to go on a three-week lockdown, tell me about that.
01:16  Alkis Michail
Yeah we were expecting it.
01:18
So normally we had like around 100 cases 80 cases.
01:29
So like two weeks ago we had like 400 and then we had the first 400 cases, then the next day was like 500 and 600 then a thousand then 2000.
01:37
So yesterday we had like 3000.
01:40
So two weeks ago when the cases in Greece started to rise, most of the Athenians stopped you know going out.
01:47
So they got a bit scared but when the government started to talk about the lockdown and that
01:53
the restaurants would be closed, everyone panicked so they all went out and it was super busy.
02:04
So it was like with the last time when they said that we're going to close, no one was going
02:07
out, this time when they said that they're going to close, everyone went out that was funny.
02:14
The thing now is that we were prepared.
02:17
So I'm taking it very positive this time.
02:24
So it's more like a vacation.
02:28
The last day on the restaurant all of our clients were saying happy holidays for the new lockdown, so now yeah we're prepared.
02:36  Prathap Nair
So you’re saying, obviously you're better prepared this time and you you're feeling positive about this lockdown for three weeks.
02:44
Can you explain why?
02:46  Alkis Michail
So yeah we’re prepared, I didn't have to throw anything away.
02:49
The government is going to give much more money than last time.
03:02
They're going to pay the employees like a hundred percent of their salary - most of them, they get like a 700 per month, so the government is giving us 800 euros.
03:15
So most of them will get a like a hundred more.
03:24
We won't have to pay any loans or any bills, they're suspended until March, so that's good.
03:37  Prathap Nair
Oh that’s good to know.
03:40
So in the past three months you took step by step measures, the restaurant was not completely open.
03:46
There was also social distancing and everything, tell me how the business went in the past three months.
03:52  Alkis Michail
After August, most of the Athenians were starting to come back from their
03:57
holidays from the islands and from their villages and yeah restaurant started to go much better.
04:03
So more tourists started to come, we had more tourists during September and October, after the summer everyone was more relaxed..
04:10
it was really busy and it was getting busier like week by week.
04:17
And yeah I think it will continue going this way after down the second lockdown.
04:28  Prathap Nair
Yeah people were completely shut down in the first lockdown and this time they wanted
04:33
to just make use of whatever little time that was available before the second lockdown came upon them.
04:39  Alkis Michail
Yeah, it was really busy.
04:41
So we had many tourists from Germany, England and from Israel because now Israel is in
04:57
lockdown, they made like an agreement with our government so they can only travel to Greece.
05:03
So like we had many from Israel.
05:07
And it was like busy every day.
05:07  Prathap Nair
How were the tourists behaving this time?
05:09
Were they all very cautious?
05:12  Alkis Michail
Yeah like most of them.
05:14
I think Greeks are more careful.
05:19
I mean we have like two categories of people - people that don't believe you know the virus and the other.
05:25
So you know vegans and vegetarians that don't believe the virus exists, so this is our target
05:35
group and most of them, yeah they're coming to the restaurant, then don’t wear the mosque.
05:45
So we tell them you know, you have to wear the mask and you know blah blah blah everything.
05:50
But yeah Greeks are more careful.
05:53  Prathap Nair
Yeah we’re all anxious about the winter.
05:59
Your parents how are they doing?
06:03
How is the hotel doing?
06:05
Did they have decent business during the reopening phase?
06:11  Alkis Michail
So yeah my hotel was open for one week.
06:18
So we only had like two to three rooms per day and sometimes we didn't have any rooms at all.
06:26
So yeah you know it struck us hard.
06:31
So my mother was coming up to the hotel and like most of the time she was sitting at the reception.
06:48
So my mother was thinking of work.
06:53
I mean it was very weird times because we own the hotel like since the early sixties so that was the first time that there’s a crisis.
07:04
My father on the other hand doesn't work.
07:08  Prathap Nair
So the focus became your restaurant for the family, because the restaurant is doing better business in this time.
07:18  Alkis Michail
We were feeling a bit lucky, although you know we never expected it.
07:27
So the restaurant went pretty well so we you know in a way it supported the loss from the hotel.
07:44  Prathap Nair
How was your social circle?
07:45
Your friends, do they go out?
07:47
How are they coping with the virus situation?
07:53  Alkis Michail
So for me, I haven't been out, because we finish work at around 12 o'clock.
08:02
So then we had to clean the restaurant.
08:02
So everything was closing at two o'clock so I didn't have time to go out…but you know people were going out.
08:17
My friends like half of them were going out for drinks and stuff.
08:22
But they didn't go to a clubs.
08:24
Most of them who were going into clubs and party are mostly young people, most people in my age, we're going for dinners and cocktails and stuff like that.
08:43
And yeah but some others were partying really hard in the islands.
08:48  Prathap Nair
And how is it going with your girlfriend?
08:53  Alkis Michail
She's on hold since March when the first lockdown, yeah they didn't have
08:58
work because they are wedding planners so they didn't have any wedding during the summer.
09:04
Now they were supposed to plan weddings for next year but again they don't have work.
09:12
So she she's at home all the time, she's a bit depressed but she's okay.
09:16  Prathap Nair
So how are you guys planning to spend the next three weeks of lockdown?
09:17  Alkis Michail
Yeah so now when they announced that the restaurants are closing, my girlfriend was very happy.
09:17
She was like, I know you’re not happy but I'm really happy because you know I’ll see more of you.
09:46
What we're planning to do is, I will develop the new menu, we will sit together like in the first lockdown,
09:54
we will do things together, workout together and the play station five is coming out on the 19th, so.
10:06  Prathap Nair
Okay food menu.
10:08
Are you developing a new menu?
10:11
A lot of people were curious about your watermelon salmon.
10:16
What's the new menu like?
10:18
What are you going to do with the new menu?
10:21
And do you have any more plans to introduce new dishes?
10:25  Alkis Michail
So yeah what I'm planning to do is the watermelon thing is going out of the menu uh because we don't have any more watermelon.
10:35
So yeah I'm going to have like two ramen dishes.
10:38
This is instead of the watermelon and one of them is going to be like a truffle ramen and the other one is going to be like fish ramen.
10:48
I'm going to do fish with carrot so it will have very fishy flavor.
10:53
So those are like two new dishes.
10:55
Then we're going to have a chicken waffle, the chicken is going to be Saitan baked in the oven.
11:02
So it's going to be like a healthy version of chicken and waffle and the waffles being from sweet potato and rosemary.
11:09
We're going to have new burgers, few salads, we're going to have lot of soups.
11:16
So a lot of pumpkin, so it's going to be Christmasy winter menu, and a lot of curry because I love curry.
11:28  Prathap Nair
Yeah Indian food is full of inspiration for vegans and vegetarians.
11:37
Really exciting, for these meat flavors, do you use Marmite or Vegemite?
11:48  Alkis Michail
We use marmite, seaweed, miso and we use basically umami flavors that give you meaty flavor.
12:00
All of the many dishes we have is developed for non-vegans and most of our clients like 95% are non-vegans.
12:08  Prathap Nair
That's a brilliant idea to bring non-vegans into the fold and to get them introduced to vegan food.
12:14  Alkis Michail
So like most of the non-vegans are coming like once or twice per week in our restaurants.
12:20
And they like it.
12:21
They like the dishes because they can find you know something that’s really healthy and it reminds them of the sort of meaty flavors they used to eat.
12:31
So yeah that's success for us.
12:40  Prathap Nair
How exciting.
12:41
I can't wait to come to Athens when everything opens up and try food at your place.
12:48
One of my colleagues also said the same thing after listening to the first episode that we did.
12:53
He was so curious about your watermelon tuna and salmon carrots so yeah you can expect us to land in Athens someday.
13:15
You’re a little dicey about how Christmas is going to be?
13:19  Alkis Michail
Yeah for Christmas we're not very sure like for now, the government said that we're on three weeks lockdown
13:27
till 30th of November, but they believe that the restaurants will open around the 10th of December without restrictions.
13:38
So I'm not planning to do any you crazy stuff for Christmas because I'm a bit worried.
13:43
If we opened around 10 December, then we'll be fine, if we open later than the 10th of December though yeah we'll see…
14:00  Prathap Nair
Fingers crossed for you, so good luck for the winter, and here's hoping the new menu comes together and it also received like last time.
14:25
Talk to you again sometime in January.
14:27
Stay healthy, stay safe.
14:30  Alkis Michail
My pleasure
14:37  Prathap Nair
Alkis will return one more time for the third season of the podcast.
14:41
Next week, Fidaa, who works for a Palestinian NGO in the Gaza Strip shares how the community managed to deal with the covid 19 outbreak.
14:51
Stay tuned.
14:54
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15:05
This podcast is implemented with and by members of the Bosch Alumni Network, a community that brings together
15:11
former and current fellows, grantees and staff members of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partners.