Nikos Ligidakis
Chef, Author and Humanitarian

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American Thanksgiving—a great holiday to appreciate one’s blessings. This year you can find Nikos Ligidakis with his extended large family gathered around the table sharing love and food. His own words to me, “I still love to cook, but this year I am telling my family that they can cook the turkey.” With an expected 35 people—they’ll need more than one turkey. More than one turkey is nothing new to Nick, he has prepared thousands of them!



This noted chef, restaurateur, author and humanitarian has helped to feed Arizona’s homeless with his ‘Thanksgiving Project”. Each year for 21 years, Nick would close his busy restaurant the week prior to Thanksgiving to prepare and cook mounds of food in order to serve the 20,000-30,000 on Thanksgiving Day.

In 1995 his efforts won him the Phoenix Humanitarian Award. He remembers 1995, that was the year he saw the largest amount of homeless gather—a staggering 32,000 people! He simply tells me, “I just always wanted to give back. I believe this to be a better measure of success than any of the many other achievements he has reached! This selflessness shows tremendous strength of character.




Born in Greece in the town of Kiato Greece, and raised in the Athenian suburb of Kalithea, Nick was forced to leave Greece for Chicago Illinois in 1969 due to his military involvement and opposition to Greece’s ruling junta in 1967.

Being a semi-pro soccer player did not provide him the income he needed to survive in America so Nick drew on the lessons that he learnt at his parent’s taverna back in Greece turning to food to earn a living. Nick’s story is the American dream—work hard and you will succeed.

After years of self study in Chicago, one of America’s most culinary forward cities, in 1977, he moved to Arizona, and in 1983 opened his first restaurant. His approach to the fresh Mediterranean style of cooking was cutting edge in Arizona and his Southern European Cuisine style brought him much success.

His culinary acclaim is evident with 7 restaurants, numerous cookbooks, television appearances, and write ups in almost every local and several national publications. He was referred to as the ‘Greek God of Desserts’ with over 400 original dessert recipes. He tells me that he believes his success is due to his approach of non-pretentious, comfortable, accessible foods. In speaking to him he tells me, “I don’t know why I got so much praise nor do I know how I got to be so successful—I am not  that good. (He chuckles.) I never even went to culinary school.” “Must have been the hard work.” He remains a modest man in spite of all his achievements.

In the late 1980’s, he decided that he would open a new chapter of life, simply because “It was time to do something new.” He began writing. “The Heroes of my Thoughts”, a book about his parents and his life in Greece was highly acclaimed. It is this book that gave birth to his “Children’s Pen Foundation”. This notable, educational, philanthropic organization encouraged 6th and 7th graders to write. They would be asked to identify their heroes and express how they could emulate them. What were their visions for the world when they reach age 30? What could they do to help create a world of their dreams?



With immediate success from this book, he continued to publish more. Others came to him asking for help on how to write, how to become published, he learnt that he enjoyed helping others bring their stories to light—and in the late 90’s he opened his own publishing company, Inkwell productions.

His most recent book, Power and Defiance was a labor of love taking 8 years to write. In the nearly 800 pages it is about the integrity of individual freedom and the intense struggle for social justice.



Nick is currently working on a book with regards to the Parthenon Marbles. Along with his writing, he is also currently working with about 45 authors that are waiting for him to help publish them, and he helps to run the many facets of Inkwell.

At 69 years young, Nick is a perfect example that age is only a state of mind and there is always a new adventure just there for the taking. Learning that I am 50 years of age, he says I am just a baby. (Which makes me extremely happy) “ Age 40”, he explains to me, “is the time of your life when you graduate your (life) lessons and you are now prepared to go into the world with that knowledge you acquired with confidence and certainty in what you want.”





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