By Penny Zalalas
Winning Greece’s first ‘MasterChef’ title in 2010, Akis Petretzikis has gone on to become one of the country’s most loved food presenters and creative chefs.
Whether it’s cooking traditional Greek dishes or presenting cuisines from other parts of the world- Akis brings new pleasure into how food looks and tastes.
His deliciously mouthwatering recipes are ultimately eye-catching platings and flavour combinations, which reflect the innovative workings of his own mind.
With over 470,000 fans on Instagram, 315,000 followers on Facebook and a global following on his YouTube channel ‘Akis Kitchen’ (which is part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel) you can be guaranteed there is always something delightful and aromatic being whipped up in Akis Kitchen Lab.
We recently spoke to Akis about his love for food and also take a look at where it all began.
Akis was brought up in Thessaloniki and at the age of 16 he started working in his family’s business. At 18, he decided to leave the city he grew up in and move to Athens, to study accounting. Once arriving in Greece’s capital city, he realised his true love and passion lay within gastronomy.
He was immediately drawn to the taste of fresh fruit, the aromas of Mediterranean spices and the sounds of knives being sharpened on a coarse stone. It was at that precise moment he decided to become a chef, and started by attending classes at the “Le Monde” School of Culinary Arts.
As soon as he graduated and had degrees in both accounting and as a trained chef, he started working in a variety of well-known restaurants and hotels all over Greece. Akis then wanted to take his skills a step further by exploring the art of international cooking, so headed over to England where he resided for 5 years, while working very closely with many famous and award winning chefs.
In 2010, Greece’s MEGA channel produced its first ‘MasterChef’ television series and as soon as Akis found out about this, he wanted to become a contestant. Not only did he participate but he was a clear winner- taking 1st place in the competition and becoming the first Greek ‘MasterChef’.
Today, Akis is one the most popular and well-loved television personalities, where he has been sharing his cooking talents and ideas every day for the last 5 years, on MEGA’s morning show. Audiences enjoy Akis’ ability to use simple, every day ingredients and masterfully turn them into heavenly recipes with ease. He is also a highly acclaimed chef and works as a consultant for many famous 5 star hotels and restaurants all over the world.
In 2014 he began a quarterly magazine publication called “Menu by Akis Petretzikis” and on December of the same year he published his long awaited cookbook called “Now this you have to taste…”
One of his most recent and very successful projects is the “Akis Petretzikis Kitchen Lab,” which Akis and his team describe as “a culinary laboratory if you like… a magical multicultural wonderland of taste.” It was Akis’ dream to work with his team in a friendly environment that would be more like a home than an office- a warm space that could be the source of endless inspiration. It is here that Akis and his talented team set themselves free to create, cook and come up with new ideas for recipes that “we bring to life by working all together.”
“It may seem strange to you but it is at Kitchen Lab, where all of the creative efforts for the website, the magazines, the cook book and even the television shows are all coordinated from. You could call it the “headquarters” of taste and flavour since everything is thought out and planned within these walls,” says Akis.
One of Akis’ proudest moments to date was in May 2015, where he started a new collaboration with the company Fresh One Productions, based in London and set up by one of the world’s most recognised and successful chefs Jamie Oliver. Akis is now a part of Jamie’s Food Tube network, which has now put Akis and his tasty food on a global scale and is being watched and followed by fans all around the world.
Akis also took the time to answer a quick Q&A for GCT →
When did your passion for cooking begin?
I cannot say that I had a real passion for cooking as I was growing up. I was living in a rather rural area though, so I was coming across traditional Greek dishes and produce but as it was “there” I did not really pay any notice to them.
Only when I moved out on my own, came to Athens and saw another way of cooking, I realised that I was missing something that was available to me since I was a kid. Then my passion for cooking began, as I was trying to recreate those dishes and tastes I had in the past.
What Greek dish do you enjoy cooking most?
There is no specific Greek food that I love cooking- it more depends on the time of year and the availability of the fresh produce- that is when I create my dishes. Certainly I love using fresh seafood from Greece though because the taste is unparalleled. Also, I have favourite ingredients all year round such as tahini, honey, Greek herbs and fresh fruits.
What are some of your favourite non-Greek cuisines and dishes?
I worked a lot with French chefs and this cuisine is one of my favourites- especially dishes from the countryside and not the fancy dishes that you see in the gourmet restaurants.
What inspires you in the kitchen?
Fresh & tasty ingredients.
How do you come up with so many creative recipes?
I have so much to share and also bear in mind that there are thousands of wonderful recipes in the world. Most of the times I feel like a kid in a candy store and want to create and create and create! Also there are so many talented cooks and chefs in the world and you get inspired from their work as well. I love reading cooking books and magazines from all over the world, I love searching and testing new recipes, I love tasting every new ingredient.
What do you love most about sharing your recipes with your many followers and fans through your website, social media and YouTube channel?
It is still a novelty for me. When I get a message from a girl in Peru who has tried my spanakopita and tells me how much she loved it- I am just thrilled! The world has become such a small place. I also get feedback and information about their cuisines and favourite ingredients and food!
For someone who has never cooked Greek food before- what are some of your ‘fail safe’ recipes you would recommend for them to try?
If you could host a ‘Dinner Party for 4’ for anyone in the world- who would they be and what would you cook for them?
David Leibovitz, Pim Techamuanvivit, Shuna Lydon and Deb Perelman. All four are wonderful cooks and food bloggers who have inspired me in the digital era. I love them all and would love to serve them Greek nibblies, cheese and honey and enjoy wonderful wines somewhere in the country side while talking about everything and nothing.
*For more on Akis Petretzikis →