Food festival brings Greek culture to Surrey

SURREY – Don’t stir a Greek coffee. This is some of the sage advice you can find while waiting for a drink at Surrey’s annual Greek Food Festival.

The coffee, says Stamati Charalambidis who you can find masterfully brewing up cups, has to boil to a foamy perfection before it’s ready to be poured into a cup – grounds and all.

To his right, 75-year-old Sam Stamatakis will be tending the Loukoumades. He moved to Canada from Greece in 1966 and has been making the Greek doughnuts coated in honey and cinnamon for the past 25 years.

Besides their evidently Greek names, these men – along with a host of other volunteers – have one thing in common. For the next week they will be working to open Greek culture and, more deliciously, Greek food to Surrey.

Now in its 26 year, the Greek Food Festival at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church on 96th Avenue in Surrey is a celebration of souvlaki, tzatziki and gyros.

“Food seems to be the thing that brings people to the Greeks. Every culture has something very unique and very special about it but Greek food seems to almost have become like a staple now,” said Eleni

Diamantopoulos, chair of the festival.

The festival is a chance for the Greek community to preserve and share its heritage. Unlike other cities, Greeks in the Lower Mainland are spread out making it harder to keep a sense of culture alive.

“It’s not like Toronto or Montreal where there’s Greeks everywhere on every street corner, so they are holding on to whatever they can to preserve their culture,” said Diamantopoulos In addition to the food, live music and traditional dance performances will be held each day of the festival.

On the final evening, members of the Diaspora Hellenic Dance Group will dedicate a performance to Surrey teen Lindsey Laurenco who lost her battle to Leukemia last year. They will be selling T-shirts and all proceeds will go to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation in Laurenco’s name.

The 2014 Greek Food Festival is serving up souvlaki, among other mouth-watering dishes, until June 15. It runs Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on the weekend from noon to 10 p.m. Admission is free.

To find out more about the festival, visit www.greekorthodoxsurrey.com.