Aglaia Kremezi is a little spark plug of a woman, constantly running around, her wild curly hair bouncing with each step. A cookbook author and newspaper columnist, she also runs a culinary program called Kea Artisanal, where her frenetic energy contrasts sharply with the peaceful atmosphere on the sleepy island of Kea, about two hours from Athens by ferry. The town of Ioulis consists of little more than whitewashed houses and chapels, a quaint graveyard, and an occasional donkey making its way through the narrow cobblestone streets. During my weeklong trip, we spent half our time exploring the island—walking among ruins and relaxing on sandy beaches, some still littered with fragments of ancient pottery—and the other half cooking at Aglaia’s home, just outside of town, near the sea and the marina. The class days started early, and Aglaia organized each lesson around a theme—such as phyllo, bread, or olives—with recipes involving each, as well as sides and salads to accompany them. I not only learned to make phyllo dough but also discovered countless ways to fill it. I stuffed grape leaves torn right from the vine and layered flatbread with feta and Aglaia’s Greek-spiced tomato sauce. At a sunset beach barbecue, I had the tenderest grilled octopus I’d ever tasted. (011-30-22880-21-91-7; keartisanal.com; $2,339 for six days, including most meals)
What I Learned
How to make a great one-pot dinner by searing chunks of lamb shoulder, adding beans, and layering stuffed grape leaves on top. As the dish cooks, the flavors meld together beautifully.
How simple it is to cure your own olives, with whatever herbs and spices strike your fancy.
Before You Go
Kea is an island, and bad weather can keep the ferry in port for a couple of days at a time. Be prepared for unanticipated layovers.
Where to Stay
Porto Kea Suites (011-30-22880-22-87-0; portokea-suites.com; from $152). About ten minutes from the school (they pick you up), this is the only high-end hotel on the island. Ask for a sea view.