In the dining room with our Chef John Vidalis
When did you first fall in love with being in the kitchen? And when did you decide to become a professional chef?
It all began in Cyclades, in the island of Tinos. I remember myself, like all kids alike, sneaking up on the kitchen surface, noticing my grandma’s moves when preparing the day’s meal. The spurs of excitement came from all directions, the colors of ingredients, my childhood curiosity to grasp cooking cut and peel, the mingling of ingredients. I was totally caressed by my grandma’s love in the making, a magical process that I tasted first in the house, from her spoon. Later on, the memory itself urged me to travel further to discover recipes and ingredients in other places in Greece, realizing the richness of local gastronomy, around the world. The beauty of Italian gastronomy won my greatest attention at the age of 18, when I decided to recreate the emblematic dishes of Italy, the forming of fresh pizza dough, fresh pasta, with an interest in the purity of ingredients.
My studies in Greece entailed intensity and thirst for learning new techniques, whereas my postgraduate studies formed my specialization in the beauty of food presentation, the innovative dish design, a perk that represents me to date.
Please tell us a little about your professional background
The last 14 years of my gastronomic adventure have been the most thrilling for me, a young at heart feeling, keeping awake my childhood curiosity, my intention to create new taste experiences, experiment with ingredients and different cooking cultures.
My cooking articulation was uncovered with a series of popular menus around the concept of trendy all day food, presented in new and upcoming spots of Athenian gastronomy.
I would like to mention with a feeling of sweet nostalgia some of them: “Big Deals” the all-day bar resto in Psychico Athens, a nouveau concept of French cuisine with a mix of fast dining and trendy brunching choices, the cosmopolitan and of historical importance “Agora” in the heart of beautiful suburb Filothei, presenting finely curated dining choices of Mediterranean dishes with a touch of Italy and healthy ingredients. My current love is the wonderful and magical “Kuzina”, the fun concept, an all day bar and resto found in great locations of charm and social interest. Kuzina in trendy Psyrri, is my modern workshop of new and mindful culinary art forms. Pasaji, the sensual restaurant of tasting delights with a touch of mystique.
Having distanced a 12 year path with the art of cooking, I feel lucky to have collaborated as a Chef in Chief, with one of the greatest and most achieved Catering companies in Greece, owning a collection of restaurants and bars in Athens and in Mykonos, namely Pasaji Athens and Pasaji Mykonos, Kuzina Athens and Kuzina Mykonos and Farina Mykonos.
How would you describe your cooking style/ technique?
My cooking practices own their routes in traditional Greek recipes and the familiar ingredients we all love. I seek authenticity in materials, simplicity and the modernism, an innovation in dish presentation, the impulsiveness of experimenting with exotic ingredients. The result is Greek traditional plates twisted with intense exotic taste of the Far East της, a new route and taste knowledge of Greek cuisine, as well as Asian dishes with a European ambience. My knowledge is channeled over the notion of fusion cuisine, a dialogue between European and Japanese tasting notes, with a special attribute to the faraway French Polynesia. My special edit is the Sushi menu we offer at sensual Pasaji, at Spyrou Miliou passage, and Ornos beach in Mykonos, with special colors and aromas.
Where do you get most of your produce? Are there lots of local farms, for example?
The selection of ingredients is processed with the collaboration of local cooperatives and independent producers in Mykonos and Naxos, with discerning materials and drinks for purity and freshness.
Depending on the type of fresh ingredients we have in stock on a daily basis, we choose to transform our daily menus, dependent on the freshness of the given ingredients, the specialty meat and fish that are brought to us.
Is it easy to source all ingredients in Athens? Are there any that are difficult to find? What are suppliers like?
We are in continuous quest for developing the range of tasting elements, in other words, we experiment non-stop with new exciting tasting factors. Our desire coincides with an important development that is observed in the supply of new unseen ingredients from around the world, convenience and speed of delivery to the local greek market. We are in the utmost position to take full advantage of this conjuncture.
Are there any unusual ingredients, such as local herbs or spices, or local special products, that you use in the kitchen?
The main tasting elements are not unseen, yet they are familiar, their prototype character is found in their purity during produce. We are supplied daily dairy products from Mykonos, fresh pasta from neighboring Italy, potatoes from Naxos island, red tomatoes from Tinos, Greek cheese from Syros. It is important to mention that we often order ingredients according to special requests and desires of our beloved guests.
What is the dining scene in Athens like?
The famous crisis of Greece has brought an awakening in the food and restaurant world, a continuous seeking of innovation and novelty. Competition in ingredients and taste is fiercely imposed upon us, we Chefs fight to overcome ourselves in taste and style, with the absolute desire to please and surprise our audience, who are often visiting from every part of the world. It is a fact that more than 5 million tourists visit us annually and gastronomy is considered one of the most attractive themes in Tourism for our country, Greece.
What I personally curate is a lively active internal workshop of experimentation for innovation on our existing recipes. Our mission is a world food award as part of our peculiar tasting journey, arising from the absolute satisfaction of the senses of our audience, in one word, the pleasure.