I was born in South Hampton in England in 1990, but I grew up here on Poros together with my brother Iakobos (Jamie). He was always by my side since I remember. He taught me a lot. I appreciate the fact that we grew up on Poros as opposed to the big city. I was never that much into studying. Jamie was the one who loved books and reading and he tried to convince me I should do the same. I preferred playing football with my friends and helping out at my parents’ taverna. I had done it since I was 12 years old.
In school we were doing sports 3 times a week. There was a choice of rowing, kayaking and running. I chose kayaking. It was a great experience for me. We did many competitions, even won a few medals. But despite all that activity I was a bit chubby as a child and young teenager. At some point I weighted 135 kg! It was also the time of the computer and internet revolution. That meant we suddenly stopped spending time actively outside and instead we were playing video games all the time. I started getting addicted to it. We would also eat a lot of junk food hence me becoming heavier and heavier. My parents tried to convince me to stop it, but I was a 14 year old rebel at that time.
My life took a big shift when I met a Norwegian guy Viktor (who became a close family friend in the end). He was a tall, strong and very fit man. On one of his regular visits to Poros he said: “Alex, you are becoming bigger and bigger each time I see you, what’s happening?”. The crazy thing was I did not realise at the time I was so fat. He asked if I had a girlfriend. I didn’t, so he asked me if I knew why that was the case. Only then I started realising I had a serious problem with my weight. He had a proposition for me – join him in Norway for 2-3 months and help with the construction work he was doing. He convinced my parents it was the right thing to do and off I went. I spent almost 3 months with Viktor in the summer of 2007. We did all sorts of maintenance and fixing work. We lived in the forest where I had no access to Mc Donalds or computer games. Instead Viktor made only healthy meals with lots of vegetables and got me to do a lot of physical work. When I came back home I was weighing 20kg less! For a 17 year old boy that I then was it was a life changing experience. I remember I came up to my mom and handed her over all my wages from Norway. I was really grateful they had agreed to let me go with Viktor. And that year they really could use the extra money due to the move of our family taverna, which cost them most of their savings.
When I came back to Poros I continued with the healthy diet. For 1.5 years I didn’t eat any junk food or drink any soft drinks. I kept losing even more weight and was feeling great. I ended up losing more than 60 kilos! My life took a huge shift at that time.
After my trip to Norway I was considering a career as a captain on Hydra and working on the big yachts. This was a choice for many of my friends. I loved the sea, I thought it was going to be a nice lifestyle. A bit like a pirate. But my sailor friends told me it was not as glamorous as it seemed. Being at sea for 6 months or more, on your own, far away from your family, girlfriend and friends was not an easy choice. Then my mom had an idea: “why don’t you study to be a chef?”. I loved food and thought it was actually an interesting option for me, especially having had some experience in our family taverna. Unfortunately the studying season had already started and it was a challenge to find a school. Eventually we found one in Patra where my brother Iakobos was studying as well, so that worked out well.
The cooking school lasted one year, but to be honest they were not teaching us much. They didn’t even have their own kitchen. We had to go to a restaurant every day for an hour or so where we would make one dish a day. Through the cooking school we got a chance to work in a big hotel (for more than 1000 guests), but unfortunately they didn’t let us do much cooking. We were mostly cleaning up. So I left after 1 month as I wasn’t learning anything. I came back to Poros where I was offered a trainee position at Poros Image (Xenia at the time) hotel where my father was also working as a DJ. I worked there for 2 years. The chefs there taught me a lot including the right discipline in the kitchen. From then on I started taking the chef job seriously. I found another chef school in Tolo near Nafplio where I spent 2 more years. It turned out to be a far better experience. After I graduated I was sent to work at Sirene Blue hotel. I stayed there for 3 years.