The COVID-19 pandemic has forced travel lovers to postpone their adventures; people with wanderlust miss discovering new places, meeting new people and especially miss tasting new cuisine. But fear not; now you can open the door to the world of delicious Greek cuisine and travel to Mykonos without leaving your kitchen. I talk to Ioannis Parikos, one of the most talented and respected Greek culinarians, about his journey to Michelin awards, therapeutic cooking, Greek cuisine and fresh ideas for your warm home dinner.
Ioannis, can you tell us about your background to introduce yourself?
The starting point of my career was my job at “Varoulko” restaurant, followed by a job at “Spondi” restaurant. Working at two of the best restaurants in Athens, was an amazing learning experience and a trigger to pursue my dream in the kitchens of the world! I was soon working alongside some of the world’s greatest chefs, like Chef Eric Frechon at the ***Michelin restaurant “Epicure” in Paris, and Chef Yves Mattagne at the **Michelin restaurant Sea Gril in Brussels.
Upon my return to Greece I worked at “Hytra” restaurant where I was awarded one Michelin star in 2010. My second Michelin star came when I returned to my starting point, “Varoulko” restaurant!
When did you realize that cooking was your passion?
Since the age of 16, when I first started living alone and working at a restaurant, I was intrigued by everything that had to with cooking, ingredients, flavours & experimenting. Soon after I finished my army duty, a good friend of mine offered me a job in one of the best restaurants in Athens. This was an amazing experience and it wasn’t long before I realized that this is the path I want to follow.
Do you find cooking therapeutic? Why do you think that is?
I do. Cooking for yourself, at home, or for your family and friends is indeed very therapeutic and a great way to relax and be creative. Cooking professionally is different. It is my passion and I absolutely love what I do, but it can get stressful!
You are a Michelin-awarded chef; tell us about this exciting award and how this came to be.
The awards came as a result of extremely hard work and dedication and I couldn’t be more grateful! The most important judges, though, are my customers. When your restaurant is full, your customers are happy and return again and again, this is the greatest reward for me and my team.
You are currently working at Krama Restaurant in Mykonos’s Semeli Hotel, can you tell us a little more about both?
Semeli is an amazing 5-star hotel, right in the heart of Mykonos Town. The location is ideal, just a 5-min walk to all the attractions, but still quite and relaxing. There are two restaurants operating at Semeli and for the past 3 years, I am the head chef at Krama Restaurant. Working at Krama has been a wonderful experience so far. We are currently creating the new menu where we aim to focus on the local cuisine of the Cycladic islands. Mykonos has a lot of restaurants, but still, it is hard to find high-quality Greek food and this is what we, consistently, offer to our guests.
What is your personal favorite Greek dish?
My all-time favorite Greek dish is “gemista”. Vegetables, stuffed with rice and herbs. This is a dish that my mother used to make, using fresh ingredients that came from our own garden and it is such a vivid and nostalgic childhood memory!
If a person has never tried Greek cuisine, what do you recommend to try first?
Greek cuisine uses Mediterranean principles and ingredients. High quality olive oil, lots of vegetables and fresh herbs. It is very difficult to choose one dish, but if you find yourself in a Cycladic island, I would definitely recommend a slow cooked goat stew. The taste of this meat is exquisite, due to the fact that these animals grow near the sea! For a vegetarian option, definitely the “gemista”-stuffed vegetables, that I mentioned above!
What would be a must-try Mykonos dish?
I would suggest the Cycladic Salad with a twist! Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, caper leaves, onion, olives, rusk, olive oil, sea salt, oregano and the local Mykonian cheese “Kopanisti”, instead of Feta cheese.
Autumn is here; can you share a signature Krama recipe for this time of year?
Ingredients (4 portions)
• 300 g beetroots, raw
• 900 ml liter stock, chicken
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 clove(s) of garlic, minced
• 400 g rice for risotto
• 80 ml white wine
• 50 ml olive oil
• 2 tablespoon(s) thyme, fresh, only the leaves
• 1 bay leaf
• 30 g chives, finely chopped
• 80 g butter
• 50 ml white balsamic vinegar
• 100 g goat cheese
• 50 ml heavy cream
• 80 g roasted hazelnuts
• 60 g parmesan cheese
Wrap the beetroots with aluminum foil and bake them until they are cooked. Beat ½ of the beetroots in a food processor with half of the olive oil and the whit balsamic vinegar, until the mixture is completely smooth. Cut the remaining beetroots into cubes.
Place a deep pot over medium to high heat and add the rest of the olive oil. Add the onion, the garlic & the bay leaf along with some finely chopped thyme leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon for 4 minutes. Add the rice. Sauté while stirring, until it becomes slightly translucent. As soon as it does, add the white wine and stir until it reduces and all of the alcohol has evaporated. Lower the heat and add 2 spoonfuls of broth. Stir continuously, careful not to let the rice stick to the bottom of the pot. As soon as the risotto has soaked up all of the moisture, add another spoonful of broth. Repeat this process until all of the broth has been added and the rice is ready. Remove from heat and add butter, grated parmesan, cubed beetroots and chives. Lastly, add the beetroot cream and gently combine.
Mix the goat cheese with the heavy cream in your food processor until it is soft and creamy. Serve the risotto with a spoonful of goat cheese cream and roasted hazelnuts on top.
What are your plans for the future at Krama Restaurant?
This season we are creating a brand new menu. Our main goal is to highlight the local cuisine and emphasize on the ingredients. We are looking for local farmers and producers that will supply their products to us, exclusively.
How can our readers contact you and follow the hotel and restaurant on social media?
Finally, can you please share your motto and your favourite quote?
“Dream big, work hard and things WILL happen!”