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Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 4:55:00 PM
Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 5:19:32 PM
by c. w. cameron
Grilled Mediterranean Veggie Wrap at Grecian Gyro in Atlanta, Georgia. - Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT
Diet focuses on eating mostly plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
EVERY time the Mediterranean diet is in the news, Nick Koulouris feels vindicated. “He tells us, ‘It’s what I’ve been saying for years,’” said his son George. The elder Koulouris is the founder of Grecian Gyro, now a group of five metro Atlanta restaurants.
Articles published in scientific journals like the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal suggest the Mediterranean diet promotes heart health.
The diet focuses on eating mostly plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Butter is out and olive oil is in. Red meat is an occasional indulgence, and fish and poultry are the proteins of choice. The diet also emphasises the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends.
It’s a plan the Koulouris family lives all the time. “I like to make soups and stews. There’s always a big pot on the stove. It could be Greek lemon chicken, a veggie soup or my lentil soup. My mum loves to cook. She cooks for every single holiday. We get all the family together, including the in-laws, and mum cooks for us,” George Koulouris said.
Greek immigrants Nick and Chrisoula Koulouris in 1982 opened the first Grecian Gyro in Hapeville, Georgia. “My dad always had the idea of opening a gyro shop using a gyro sauce he created that was different from anything else in the market. It took every penny he had to turn a closed-down diner into his restaurant. Dad did all the cooking and mom was the cashier,” Koulouris said.
The menu was simple: gyros, salad, Greek potatoes and baklava. Soon there were lines out the door of the 900sqft restaurant. Brother Pano was born the year after the restaurant opened, and the two boys grew up in the restaurant. “There are customers to this day who remember my brother crying and if my mum was busy, they’d change his diaper. It was truly a family restaurant,” Koulouris said.
Sister Maria came later when the restaurant had grown enough that mom could stay home. Now George and Pano are owners and store managers, and Maria manages the store in Tucker as well as serving as franchise trainer. “It’s a full family effort,” Koulouris said.
The Mediterranean diet has inspired new additions to the restaurant menus like their veggie wrap. Greek yoghurt is another Old World item that is now in big demand. “I can remember when our customers didn’t want to have anything to do with Greek yoghurt. Now they want it because they’ve learned about the health benefits,” Koulouris said.
These days Koulouris can often be found in the kitchen of the newest Grecian Gyro location in Dunwoody, experimenting with new items for the menu. He’s thinking watermelon and feta salad and Greek yogurt with local honey and walnuts. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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Lifestyle, Greek food, Mediterranean diet, health
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