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  • Words Alia Akkam
  • Images Robbie Lawrence
  • Date 22 June 2022

Since the Minos Beach Art Hotel first opened on the still-spectacular Mirabello Bay in 1963, the hotel has always supported and welcomed the local community

In and around the Cretan coastal town of Agios Nikolaos, from allowing access to its extraordinary art park of site specific sculptures to connecting their guests to local experiences.

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Owner Gina Mamadakis was born and raised on Crete

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Crete’s fertile soil has fed the Minoans, Myceneans, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, Greeks, and more over millennia. 

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The owner, Gina Mamadakis, and almost all the staff, including long serving hotel manager Stratos Patsakis, and chef Kalliopi Kourkoutaki, have been born and raised on Crete and possess a profound knowledge of the island. They also have strong connections to the local community, from winemakers to artisans, which they celebrate and share with guests, creating a rich mutual exchange.

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Head chef Kalliope Kourkoutaki, cook Mprokos Ioannis, and star chef Yannis Baxevanis make a gamopilafo (lamb pilaf)

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The history of wine on Crete is as old as its culture

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Cretan raki is produced in local distilleries

In addition, the hotel sources and supports local culinary businesses such as the Kritsa Women’s Cooperative, a traditional bakery run by a dozen local women in a charming village about fifteen minutes away. Overseen by the tiny but formidable Maria Simeaki, the initiative is a way for some of the local women to earn some extra money, but more importantly, it is a lively hub for its members to keep Cretan culinary heritage alive through the collective act of baking family recipes by hand. The tiny, fragrant shop, from which one can watch the women baking, is a favorite destination for those with a sweet tooth and for food lovers. Honey cookies, sticky-sweet and crunchy xerotigana, and cheese-filled lihnarakia sprinkled with cinnamon are on offer, as are savory cheeses, spinach pies, and local honey and olive oil.

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The Kritsa Women’s Cooperative keeps Cretan culinary heritage alive with family recipes

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Founder Maria Simeaki brought together a dozen local women to form the cooperative

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Family business Islander Antonis Farsaris bakes with the help of his mother Kyriaki

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Cretan bread baked in a traditional wood-fired oven

“When you eat local cuisine made with local products, I think that you understand the way of life of the local people.”

Star chef Yiannis Baxevanis

 

For special occasions, such as weddings, the kitchen team at the Minos Beach Art Hotel invites the women to bake in the restaurant; interested guests can also ask to spend several hours baking in the cooperative. Spending time in the kitchen with someone as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Cretan heritage as Maria invites guests to be a part of the natural and traditional rhythms of the island. When one eats with a local, one experiences the best of Cretan food and its legendary hospitality, or philoxenia.

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Gamokoulouro (embroidered bread) is a traditional wedding specialty

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On special occasions guests can experience the full force of legendary Cretan hospitality

DHB22 Culture Journal Blurb Min

Taste and Place: The Design Hotels Book is a broad and inclusive exploration of food, an integral part of purposeful travel. In our most ambitious book yet, we have called upon leading writers, photographers, creative chefs, and culinary innovators to delve into forward-looking ideas and inspiring practices around food through our hotels, destinations, and larger community. The online sale profits from this year’s book will go to humanitarian aid actions suggested by our two Ukrainian member hotels.

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