The world’s youngest Michelin-starred chef speaks exclusively to TINOS ABOUT.
He acts like a soldier on the front line while he’s a general. It combines tradition and values with the modern era and new trends. His work requires discipline, knowledge and talent, and he has them all to the fullest extent. He’d rather talk about his team than himself. And yes, the first Michelin star just whetted his appetite… His two mottos are:
It takes hard work so that you get to a point to break from it.
Personally, I prefer traditional dishes to stay as they are.
TINOS About: Tell us a little bit about your childhood, what stimuli did you have from your family and especially what did you dream to become when you grow older?
Asimakis Haniotis: My childhood was fantastic, all day outside playing football, hide and seek, going around with my friends, parents separated but spending a lot of time with both of them. When I was a kid, I think I wanted to be a chemist.
T.Ab: What does good food mean to you? Is it not necessarily good nowadays, after an explosion in the field of gastronomy?
A.c: I don’t generally think imaginative food is good. Personally I like to go to a restaurant and eat delicious food. Being imaginative but unsalted, for example, shows a lot.
T.Ab: If a young child were to start his course in the kitchens today, what would you tell him to watch out for and what gifts should he have?
A.c: I don’t like talking about gifts. For me, it takes hard work so that you get to a point to break from it. Experience will give you all the resources to move on. Yes, it takes imagination, yes, talent helps, but if you don’t work 17 hours a day and cook something a million times, you won’t understand. So hard work is A to Z.
T.Ab: It is said that no man is a prophet in his own country , and we would like to know how crucial for your career was your decision to work abroad.
A.c:The most important decision I’ve ever made. If I were in Greece, I’d be working in a lousy tavern or hotel. I didn’t know anyone in Greece to help me, and I don’t know now either. Abroad there is a terrific meritocracy that does not exist in my country.
T.Ab: Clearly a Michelin star is a dream for any cook. The road to the top, with what was it paved with for you?
A.c:With shit, I’d say if the word’s allowed. Hahaha. I left Greece without being anything, without knowing anyone, I only had a friend in London. I wasn’t accepted to work to the good restaurants in Greece, so as I ALWAYS tell myself I’m going to make it any way, I left and went to London, aiming only at my job and not going to find friends, girlfriend, etc. I worked day and night, and everyone who’s worked in London knows exactly what I mean. I didn’t even talk to my family for five years, we talked once a month. Gradually I was going up and gaining experience without understanding all this, but it happened, until the time came and I was rewarded.
T.Ab: The recognition came for you at a very young age. Does it make you more responsible regarding your next steps? Are awards sometimes a brake on our dreams?
A.c: The awards are the fruit of hard work, and that means to me you have to keep the hard work going in order to keep them coming. I have no responsibility for any recognition. I only have a responsibility to the customer who comes to eat at the restaurant.
T.Ab: Is Greece today a destination that could be the world’s top choice in terms of its gastronomic tourism? What are our advantages as a country and what should change in your opinion?
A.c: I don’t have an opinion on whether anything should change, but even if I did, I wouldn’t express it. Greece has very beautiful and very good restaurants, which are world-class restaurants. But when you see the Ministry of Tourism promoting the moussaka and not making a video of the most successful restaurants in our country, I think that says it all.
T.Ab: What do you think about the islands or more generally small places with a long history in taste, which ‘tease’ the traditional, adding intense gourmet touches? Does the visitor of the area benefit from such moves?
Getting rewarded for hard work
A.c:Teasing something has nothing to say if there isn’t a story behind it, that is, why you did it. I’m sure it’s nice to change the traditional one a little bit, but only if what you’re going to do has a better effect. Personally I prefer traditional dishes to stay as they are, but many people want change.
T.Ab: Tinian cuisine, with its local products has made huge strides in recent years. High-end restaurants on the island of the winds open one after the other. What is really fine dining for you?
A.c:Fine dining is a well-made restaurant that offers an experience, not just food. Three people who are focused on offering something unique: the chef, the sommelier and the head waiter. The sommelier’s and head waiter’s ability to explain to the customer why the chef has made this food, where he got inspiration from or why he cooks it like this. And when the client leaves the place not to be able to sleep at night but think about when he’ll be back.
T.Ab: If Tinos was a food recipe, what recipe would it be?
A.c: A fresh fish recipe. Tartar may not be Greek, but it is a recipe that brings out the fish and especially when it is fresh it should be raw. Capers, myrons, olive oil, sour grapes.
T.Ab: What do you think about social media and the trend of influencers? Especially the high standard kitchens and restaurants, are they finally ‘imprisoned’ around their public profile?
A.c:Personally, my opinion is that yes. I do not support this trend and I think it is very wrong. I wish we could not use them. But they have become vital to a restaurant, that sounds really negative.
T.Ab: Tell us a little bit about your current status. What are your dreams today and what are your plans for the near future?
Plans for the future
A.c: Right now I’m the Executive chef of Pied a Terre restaurant in the Fitzrovia area of central London with a michelin star. I try very hard with my team to evolve and work as hard as possible for the next goal, the second one. I don’t know if it ever happens or not, but we give our best every day. My dream for the future is my own restaurant in London or better in Greece, which will definitely take some more time.
T.Ab:Do you think that proper nutrition can be a weapon especially in times of pandemic and what materials would you choose from Greece for those interested in combining health with fine gastronomy?
A.c: Nutrition plays a vital role. With proper nutrition we strengthen our immune system and it is stronger in order to protect us. Spirulina in powder form is very tasty and superfood. In a risotto dish it would give great taste. Spirulina is a well-known source of valuable ingredients such as proteins, vitamins, nucleic acids, etc., which is widely used as a dietary supplement in human and animal nutrition. This use can be justified by the fact that cyanobacteria of the genus Arthrospira are characterized as dietary regarding their high nutritional value.
T.Ab: As our object is holidays, tell us what your favorite place is and what quality holidays mean to you.
A.c: My favorite place is Kefalonia, since I come from there. Every year I spend a month there on my vacation. For me quality holidays mean time with my family and friends, well-cooked food, fishing, hunting, swimming and contact with nature.