‘It’s not just a profession; it’s a way of living.”
Meet the chef bringing the taste of Greece to Kuwait.
When did you first start cooking? What’s your first cooking memory?
Professionally, I started in my early twenties. My first cooking memory is when, at the age of six, I decided to make tzatziki – the most famous Greek dip made by Greek yoghurt – after I tried it for the first time.
Which part of Greece do you come from and is there a dish/recipe from back home that you think should receive more promotion?
I come from Crete, the biggest island in Greece and the richest in biodiversity. The variety of ingredients gave us the ability to create a unique gastronomic culture, simple but full of taste combinations of vegetables, meats, fish, cheese etc. The highlight of Cretan cuisine is Dakos, a rusk round bread topped with fresh tomato, goat cheese and olive oil which was created from the need of people to have something easy to make and nutritious enough for working on their fields.
Where (and from whom) did you learn about cooking?
Mainly from my grandmother. She was passionate about cooking and had her own garden of vegetables and her own animals for meat and eggs. Most importantly, she cooked only on a fire so the whole process was a combination of enjoyment, flavours and unique creations of food.
Is there anything characteristic about the Greek way of thinking about cooking? Something that differentiates Greek chefs from other nations?
I think the fact that we first start learning how to appreciate and respect food by observing our mothers’ cooking and then going to cooking school to learn the techniques of making food professionally.
How long have you been working at Estia Mas? And what made you decide to come to Kuwait?
I have been with Estia Mas since the very beginning so I consider this place as my baby. My decision was based on my need for adventure and for a turn in my life. Living in Kuwait for the last two years I must say there are no regrets, only enjoyment and the discovery of another way of living with people who are friendly.
Do you have a favourite cuisine, apart from the Greek, of course?
Asian – I love it!
How would you describe the food you serve at Estia Mas?
My food is mama’s food! The recipes are mostly my mother’s and grandmother’s apart from some that are more creative.
So what is your favourite Greek dish, if you would have to choose only one?
That’s pretty difficult to say but if I have to choose I’ll say Cretan Greek salad because it contains all the nutrients you need (from raw vegetables to boiled potatoes and cheese) for a productive day.
How do you wind down after a long day?
Usually I take a hot shower, listen to relaxing music and read a nice book until I sleep.
What are your favourite ingredients when cooking at Estia Mas and how do you make sure to get the best ingredients?
My favourite ingredients are onion and garlic which are in almost every Greek recipe. Of course, I use plenty of other ingredients which I go and buy every morning by myself to make sure that I get the best and most fresh produce for my recipes.
Which ingredient is posing a challenge to find in Kuwait and how do you work around it?
I must say that the Kuwait market is rich enough to offer me everything I need, although I import my father’s olive oil directly from Crete.
Name five things you like the most about Greek food.
The variety of vegetables, the use of raw and not cooked olive oil, the fact that we mostly cook with seasonal ingredients and keeping a balance between meat and fish/seafood. And, of course, the passion and love which are very important to create a tasty dish.
Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
Burgers! I love to spoil myself with some junk from time to time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting to cook?
Do it because you love it otherwise you will fail. This job is pretty tough and challenging every single day. It’s not just a profession; it’s a way of living.
What gives you the greatest pleasure and satisfaction when you prepare food for your guests?
Their smile and satisfaction after they taste it. And, of course, when I see them coming back to the restaurant to try more and more of my recipes.