What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
My family’s business growing up was a butcher in Corfu and I was always surrounded by food, which really inspired me from a young age. I was often working with my father, helping him in the butchers, and watching my mother as she cooked.
What, or who, would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
Through my career I have taken inspiration from the different restaurants I have been lucky enough to work in. I took something from each experience and this has really inspired my cooking. I gained invaluable insight into the restaurant world, discovering the importance of local produce and the finest quality ingredients.
Greek cooking culture, which is all about the recipes and local ingredients, inspires me the most and continues to fuel my interest. When I first moved to Santorini there were a number of ingredients I had never used before in my cooking, which was really exciting and very inspirational for me.
Describe your culinary style…
Whilst my style incorporates techniques that are used worldwide, my method is ultimately based on the Greek way of cooking. The mix of the two give me the tools to make Santoro a memorable experience for all visitors.
While respecting the local traditions, we innovate by introducing new techniques: the fava bean is transformed into gyoza, the lemon olive oil is enhanced and transformed into a fine, foamy texture. Another example could be our marinated and grilled calamari with smoked mackerel powder, red lentil and pepper coulis. It combines the best of the island’s produce in a modern way. The result is a fine, seasonal dining experience.
What would you say is the main focus/concept for your menu at Grace Santorini?
The concept for the menu focuses on the distinctive cooking of Greek villages and select elements from contemporary worldwide cuisine. The unique menu is influenced by my passion, the flavours and produce of the Cycladic islands. Santorini’s unique terroir in combination with the climate gives the local ingredients their distinct flavours.
At Santoro I use produce grown on the island. I see no need to grow my own ingredients because those who produce on the island have been doing so for generations and are the experts.
On a day-to-day basis, we are influenced by local taverns, where grilled fish and calamari are served with wild greens, fava purée and a drizzle of lemon olive oil.
What do you think makes a restaurant or menu sosuccessful?
It comes down to the philosophy of the restaurant and its menu. At Santoro I believe our success comes from focusing on the ingredient and really showcasing that stand-out product in the dish. I believe that menus should be influenced by the location of the restaurant, this makes the experience of a restaurant different and signature.
For me it helps that I have been with Grace Hotels for eight years because in that time I have really been able to understand the brand and develop our voice. I have been lucky enough to build great relationships with both my team and guests who like to come back time and time again for the same great service.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
All our ingredients are sourced from carefully chosen local producers, with menus changing throughout the season. I also use many ingredients from the sea, as our location allows us to use the freshest of fish.
The most important ingredients I use are the regional ones – they give the dishes that authentic quality. At the local fish market we co-operate with fishermen who catch a specific type of fish using their own techniques – large eye dentex, scorpion fish, which is popular in the Mediterranean, bonito or red mullet.
Also the local wine is indispensable to us. Assyrtiko is one of the best Greek white wines, and it is unique to Santorini. It has a characteristic acidity and minerality.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests when you cook for them?
Truly unforgettable and one-of-a-kind, which is echoed throughout the rest of the hotel. We want people to have a true taste of Greece. This is not hard when the restaurant offers the ideal vantage point to enjoy the legendary Santorini sunset, which leads to an ethereal gastronomic experience with a backdrop of one of the world’s most awe-inspiring views.We also have live music on certain evenings, with saxophone and harp which people really love. It adds to the magic.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
The most significant action I took was in 2005 when I left Greece for London. I took up the role of Chef de Partie at Cecconi’s, after which I worked at amazing restaurants including The White Barn Inn in Maine (part of the Grace Hotels portfolio) and Michelin-starred establishments Le Gavroche and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
When I was 17 I was working very hard with no summer breaks. I would work throughout the summer seasons at hotel restaurants throughout the Greek Islands, whilst I pursued studies in culinary art. I would tell my younger self that this was one of the most important times in my career in terms of my influences and skills.
What’s next for you/What projects do you have lined up?
Once the season finishes on 1st November, I am considering a winter residency in January and February whilst Grace Santorini is closed. I am always working to develop my skills and learn new techniques that I can bring to Santoro. We then commence menu planning and researching for the next season, which starts in May.
What is your guilty pleasure?
It has to be souvlaki!
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Osteria Francescana, chef Massimo Bottura’s restaurant in Modena, Italy. It is very artistic, located in a very wealthy area with regards to the products and ingredients, it has three Michelin stars and was named best restaurant in the world. I have to try it.
Santorini, 847 00
+30 2286 021300