Aged just 28, Asimakis Chaniotis has become the youngest Michelin Star chef in London and one of the first two Greeks outside of Greece to receive this prestigious accolade.
Interview: Eleni Donou
About two years ago, Pied à Terre, one of the best restaurants in London, announced the appointment of Athens born and raised Asimakis Chaniotis as its new Head Chef. Having served as sous chef under both Marcus Eaves and Andy McFadden, Asimakis, aged just 28, brings a fresh vision for the future and yet another Michelin star to the critically-acclaimed French restaurant.
How did the love affair with cooking start? And how did you find yourself in London?
Everything started because of my love for food. My mother was and still is a great cook, so I was used to well-prepared food from a very young age. From then on, my interest in food turned into a dream for an illustrious career. I worked in many kitchens, from hotels to restaurants to British pubs to exhibition centers and so on. I even did a stint as private chef on a cruiser. Yet, nothing made me more passionate about cooking than French cuisine with its precision and creativity. To me, it is like an art form. London came about in the form of a personal need, to travel, to break new gastronomic ground. This city has been a real challenge.
How would you describe your cooking style at Pied à Terre?
The restaurant specializes in French cuisine with Greek influences, which I added personally, because of my heritage. I always seek perfection and to me it is very important to use quality, fresh ingredients. I am honored by the fact that the restaurant has a variety of guests, from employees in nearby companies to cooking professionals to people booking tables for special occasions, since Pied à Terre is a unique tasting experience.
What about your Greek heritage and memories? Do you use Greek products and flavors in your kitchen?
For every chef, memories are very important and definitely inspire his or her dishes. The same goes for me. One vivid memory, as well as my favorite dish is escargots “stifado” my mother used to make pretty often. The restaurant kitchen is inspired by my Greek heritage and my preferences regarding Greek food. Some of the restaurant’s dishes include trahana, bottarga, Greek cheeses and, of course, the family olive oil with which we supply the restaurant.
What are your favorite ingredients, and which is the dish that, in your opinion, stands out?
I think that the most popular dish –and my personal favorite– is the smoked quail with celeriac, truffle, roasted hazelnuts, Parmigiano and confit egg yolk. My favorite ingredient is foie gras.
You are the youngest and first Greek chef to receive a Michelin star nod outside Greece. How does that make you feel?
I felt very proud; all that hard work my team and myself put in was recognized! Every chef dreams and works hard to get a Michelin star. Personally, I am a perfectionist and I feel it is very important to use fresh and top quality products. At the same time, I try to constantly evolve, to use new cooking techniques, to learn more about wine and to create a unique, unforgettable experience for my guests.
Do you think that Greek cuisine can emerge as a strong international trend in the years to come?
Undoubtedly, but we must forgo an obsolete way of thinking which confuses our mother’s cooking with fine dining. These are two different things. We must let ourselves enjoy a special meal of gourmet “pastitsio” without having to compare it with the one we have at home. There are many restaurants that take Greek cuisine forward.
What does the future hold for you?
At this moment, my main goal is to maintain my Michelin star and get a second one, here in London. In the long run, I could, of course, see myself opening my own restaurant in my hometown, Athens. In fact, I would like that very much.