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Inspiring Conversations with Dimitrios Vagenas of My Kuzina

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dimitrios Vagenas.

Hi Dimitrios, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I was born and raised in Athens. Both of my parents were born in Konstantinoupoli and moved in Athens at a young age. From a really young age, I remember myself spending time with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen whenever they were cooking, which really was daily. I loved to see how they used and mixed the raw ingredients, and I realize now that those were my first cooking classes, which is where I inherited the love for cooking and a lot of knowledge. My favorite dish at that time was a dessert my grandmother made with chocolate and cookies and how she will always assign me to crush the cookies in small pieces and mix the ingredients with my little hands. She will always say, ‘the good memories are those created around the table, but the best are those in the kitchen where you can smell and touch the ingredients.’ That did not make a lot of sense to me at that time, but those memories are precious now.

After I finished high school, I started working at my family business. Although I enjoyed working with my family, there was something missing from my life, cooking… After some research, I decided to attend the Chef D’Oeuvre culinary school in Athens. It was the best decision in my life, and I was so excited that I did not mind working and studying at the same time. The days were starting early with studying, then go to work and attend classes in the afternoon. During my studies, I learned a lot from top-notch professionals in the field and also met some of the best Chef’s and friends. I completed the culinary program in 2009 as the top student of the program and received a scholarship that got me to the Food and Beverage Program, which I completed the following year. During the time I was studying, I started having a dream of owning my own business where I would serve freshly cooked food, the same as what my mother and grandmother would do when I was young. But first I decided to gain some experience.

The hotel industry picked my interest because of the large number of guests they served daily. At my first job, I was part of the team handling group events and restaurants in Athens (Cape Sounio, Titania, etc) and in Paros (Greek island). In 2013, I decided to expand my knowledge to other cuisines and moved to France, where I worked at the Viking River Cruises as Sous Chef. The next stop was Dallas, TX, from 2014 until now. I started working with the Omni Hotels and Resorts as a Banquet Kitchen Supervisor and worked my way up until I became Executive Sous Chef in 2018. I got furloughed from the company in March of 2020 because of Covid -19 and became a stay-at-home dad, trying to adjust to the new reality like all of us. In the meantime, experimenting with different recipes was my new daily routine which made me realize I was ready to fulfill my dream and have my own professional kitchen. After long research and going back and forth, the “My Kuzina” idea was born, an online restaurant that people could plan and order their healthy family meals around the DFW area. Authentic Greek recipes, freshly prepared and cooked from scratch, cooled down and delivered to my customers at their work or at home, ready to reheat and enjoy with family and friends.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It took a lot of researching, time, and help until the idea becomes a reality. At the same time, my family was expanding while expecting our second child and I had to be careful budget-wise. I wanted to find the perfect kitchen for this concept; while at the same time stay within my limited budget. It took several months to find and equip the kitchen in addition to taking care of all other requirements associated with launching ‘MyKuzina’. The most challenging thing in this process was to get all the required permits to operate since the concept of a “virtual restaurant” was a new and not a common one.

The main goal of MyKuzina is to introduce authentic Greek cuisine and the ‘planning your meals in advance’ concept, which offer a healthy eating routine. Introducing authentic Greek cuisine in DFW has been very successful so far and everyone loves it. The second part, ordering food in advance for the week or for the next days, is a challenge and does need some more work. A lot of people are used to ordering food at the moment they would like to eat. The idea of scheduling your weekly menu in advance is something we do at home and something I was used to when living in Greece. It is the only way you would serve your family a healthy meal throughout the week.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about My Kuzina?
There are a lot of Greek restaurants in the area but nothing like the ‘MyKuzina’ concept. You would not find anywhere in the area authentic Greek food like okra with chicken, gyro made from scratch, or soutzoukakia. One of the two goal’s of MyKuzina is to introduce authentic Greek cuisine. I like to cook everything from scratch with fresh ingredients and following recipes that I inherited from my mom and grandmother. If you have traveled or been invited to a Greek house, you have noticed the hospitality and how much we care for our guests. This is something that I apply daily at My Kuzina, where every dish is customized based on the customer’s palate. It is the most rewarding aspect of my job to have people like what I create, and I always strive to hear their comments and keep notes on their preferences for their next order.

What matters most to you? Why?
That is seeing people selecting a healthy and freshly cooked dish. This is how I was raised. My mom and grandmother always prioritized our freshly cooked meals and made sure they were full of nutrients and healthy ingredients. With my work, I am making available the ‘planning your meals in advance’ concept with 24 hours in advance order and delivery to their home/job/party/gathering. Additionally, I help my customers learn how to cook, and I am always eager to answer any question they have on cooking techniques or how to combine ingredients.

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