As we took the final bites of our five-course meal at Petra Kouzina, I realized the food we had made during this amazing Greek cooking class in Santorini would be the best of our entire trip to Greece – and possibly even Europe. This was confirmed that night when we tried one of the highest-rated restaurants in Thera and my Greek salad that others had raved about in online reviews was extremely lacking in flavor.
Yes, Chef George and his grandma’s recipe book may have ruined all other Greek food for us, but that is a small price to pay for such an amazing experience. Luckily, Petra Kouzina not only gave us hands-on tips for replicating the delicious recipes we sampled, but they also sent us home with the instructions to make them at home. So, we have a chance of enjoying those fantastic dishes again. However, the stunning atmosphere and great company will be hard to replicate.
Why Take a Cooking Class?
First of all, let’s go ahead and smash the misconception that a cooking class is boring. Sure, the one your local supermarket throws together back in the U.S. will likely put you to sleep. But, if you go to the right one, it may actually be the most active, engaging, and educational activity of your trip – plus, you get to eat delicious food!
It’s no secret that the cuisine of a country is often the center of their cultural identity. Recipes are passed on through generations – based on what ingredients are native to that area and available at the time. In a place like Santorini, Greece – with its amazingly fertile volcanic soil – fresh vegetables are the highlight. Hence the world-famous Greek salad. And, of course, with the ocean’s abundant offerings – seafood is another staple. But, you’ll also find new-to-you dishes you wouldn’t expect – for us, moussaka was a delicious surprise!
Trying the local go-to dishes at a restaurant is a common way to get a taste of a new culture. But, let’s be honest – this doesn’t often feel like a memorable experience unless you happen to have some epic views or great company. And still, that isn’t highlighting the star – the food!
What to Look for in a Cooking Class
A good cooking class (and Petra Kouzina is one of the BEST we’ve taken) will teach you the history of the food – both historic and personal accounts, as well as how to make it in your own home. And a great recipe is a fantastic, unique souvenir you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Plus, it won’t take up any space in your suitcase!
However, like any tourism-focused activity, all cooking classes are not created equally. You’ll come across plenty of options during your travels that feel like a cookie-cutter class that is just rinsed and repeated with each new set of guests. To avoid this, be sure to look for a truly local experience with a chef from the country. Unlimited wine, fun hosts, and a unique atmosphere are other perks that make it special!
Our Experience with Petra Kouzina’s Cooking Class in Santorini
From our initial email communication to hugging our hosts goodbye, the team at Petra Kouzina were wonderful to interact with! They are all very kind, professional, and fun to spend an afternoon with. We were excited to check out their offering because we appreciate the focus on authentic Greek food made with high-quality, fresh ingredients. We ate SO MUCH but didn’t feel disgustingly full due to the smart choice of dishes – which all complemented each other very well.
The small class size, unique cooking and dining areas in a historic cave house, as well as the unlimited white wine made us love the class even more. By the end, we were all super chatty, laughing often, and raving about our delicious meal.
The Greek Recipes We Learned to Make
Like any good hosts would, we were offered wine and/or water as well as snacks when we arrived. The local white wine is so tasty and light, it is all too easy to drink multiple glasses of it throughout the class!
And the bread dips made of local tomatoes and fava beans pair nicely with this go-to libation. But, that was just the start! We spent multiple hours putting together other delicious dishes (that were passed down and perfected through family recipes) before sitting down to enjoy our meal.
While the recipe for this classic Greek everything sauce is simple, we learned a lot about the importance of choosing the right yogurt when making it. You’ll have to take the class to learn all the tips and tricks Chef George has inherited, but just know yogurt consistency is key!
We were encouraged to use it as an additional dip once it was done – being sure to save some for our sit-down meal. But for most of us, it was all we could do not to shovel spoonfuls of the creamy goodness into our mouths!
As someone who chooses to eat vegetarian 90% of the time, I was really excited to learn a new tomato recipe! Whenever we house sit in Europe, we often have access to some amazing, flavorful tomatoes and I love finding new ways to use them. Tomato fritters will definitely be a go-to now. It was fun to learn the art of making these healthy tomato treats.
Since these were best freshly cooked, George finished these up table-side during dinner, which was a fun touch!
Moussaka is a layered dish – similar to lasagna, but so much better. It is George’s favorite Greek meal and was hands-down our favorite as well. We also really appreciated the smart way George went about teaching us this recipe. Each couple/pair made their own small version of the dish – layering the potato, eggplant, and pre-cooked meat mixture; while Chef George was tasked with making the more time-consuming béchamel sauce. We even got to decorate the tops of our mini moussakas to make sure we could find ours once cooked!
We loved that there was another option for vegetarians for this as well as the shrimp dish – not just, “here, have a salad.” George actually made sure to rework an entire recipe – and the lentil moussaka was just as much of a hit! Very thankful our new vegetarian friends decided to share, so we could taste both!
There are some dishes – like shrimp saganaki – that are really difficult to teach in a class setting. Since it involves using a stovetop and fire to sauté the shrimp, it can be dangerous to give each (slightly inebriated) guest a gas burner. While this part wasn’t as hands-on, Chef George did a great job at keeping us engaged by telling stories and jokes, asking us questions, and giving us little tasks in between.
We all loved hearing about how he and Paula (his wife and co-owner of Petra Kouzina) met on a sailing trip in Santorini many years ago. She is actually from Chile – where they lived together before moving back to start this amazing cooking class! The food was the star of the show, but this beautiful couple really helped to make the experience shine with their fantastic personalities.
Last, but certainly not least, we also put together our own Greek salad. This was more like making artwork than a recipe with how beautiful this iconic salad looked once all the ingredients were stacked up and topped with dressing.
Surprisingly, I think we learned the most insider tips for this dish! From how to keep the onion from being too strong tasting to the perfect time to toss it all together. I’m fairly confident I will be replicating it multiple times a week – if not daily – during our upcoming house sit in Greece!
The Memorable Meal Overlooking Megalochori
After everything was prepped, we moved the party outside. At that point, it felt like going out to eat with friends – except these new friends all had interesting stories about why they were there and where else they had been.
As each dish was passed around, we couldn’t help but say “ooo” or “aaah” or “wow”! We knew we were putting together some wonderful recipes, but seeing the finished products made us realize just what a treat this experience was.
Then we tasted our well-earned meal and the exclamations began again. We were all convinced this was the best food in all of Greece, and we made it – with A TON of help, of course. But, still … we felt like budding chefs who actually had a hope of making a similar meal at home!
The scenic, serene outdoor area overlooking beautiful Megalochori where we dined at added to the ambiance as much as the wine added to our great conversations. We all shared stories, laughed, and devoured every last morsel of that delicious Greek food!
And, of course, our meal ended with coffee (or tea) and a light dessert. Perfection!
Final Thoughts & Tips for this Unique Greek Cooking Class
Spending part of our trip to Santorini with the wonderful people at Petra Kouzina stands out as a highlight of our time in this beautiful area of Greece. While the family recipes and fresh ingredients (they even have an olive oil specially made for them!) were amazing, the wonderful atmosphere, fun hosts, and thoughtful details really made this experience extra special. It was wonderful to learn about the history of the dishes, and why they are so special in Greece – as well as to Chef George and his family.
We weren’t just making famous Greek dishes, we were making the dinner George’s mother lovingly prepared for him when it was his turn to request a meal, the dish he made for his wife the night he proposed, and the salad his grandma taught him all her secrets to making. It wasn’t just a cooking class, it was an invitation into the lives and history of this lovely family. That’s what makes this cooking class experience so different than others – it is just so genuine and heartfelt. We are honored to have experienced it.
Planning Your Visit to Petra Kouzina in Santorini
If planning to book this fantastic Greek cooking class in Santorini, be sure to contact Petra Kouzina a few days or more in advance to lock in the time you’d like. Also, let them know of any dietary restrictions (they do an amazing job at accommodating these!) and if you would like their help arranging a taxi for transport.
The 4-hour class costs €95 per person and will not exceed 16 people. Just sampling this many dishes would likely cost the same at a Santorini restaurant! (For example, a tasting of six wines with a few snacks at Santo Winery set us back about €35). So we think this is an extremely fair price for the experience which includes so many valuable DIY tips. (Click here to go to their website where they have booking information and other important details).
We were staying in Fira/Thera, so it was easy enough to just take the bus to the Boutari Winery stop – which is just a short walk to Petra Kouzina (they even have signs posted to help you along, once you’re close). Paula also sent us a very helpful map for making sure we found it! If you have time, the ‘Heart of Santorini’ is very close to this bus stop and worth the walk for the great views.
However, our best tip is to just relax and don’t take yourself too seriously. You will receive all the help you need to create a great meal, your wine glass will always be topped off, and you will leave with a full heart and full stomach – as well as cherished memories!
Not headed to Greece any time soon? Follow along with Petra Kouzina on Facebook for some great recipes, as well as on Instagram for some drool-worthy photos! But be warned – it may just inspire an impromptu trip to Santorini.
We had a lovely time during our experience at Petra Kouzina and can not thank Paula & George enough for hosting us so that we can share their wonderful offering with you. However, please know all opinions are 100% our own.