Vassilis Tsatsakis: His Culinary Journey

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Chef Vassilis Tsatsakis is considered to be the master of Mediterranean cuisine whose passion for flavors and creativity knows no bounds. With over two decades of experience, Chef Tsatsakis has honed his skills in some of the world's finest kitchens, earning a reputation as a culinary maestro.

Throughout his illustrious career, Chef Tsatsakis has collaborated with esteemed chefs from various cultural backgrounds, enriching his culinary expertise and embracing diverse influences. These fruitful partnerships have enabled him to craft an exceptional culinary style that beautifully blends traditional Mediterranean recipes with innovative techniques, creating unforgettable dining experiences.

At the heart of Chef Tsatsakis' culinary artistry lies his enticing menus, meticulously curated to celebrate the finest ingredients and flavors the Mediterranean region has to offer. His dishes showcase a harmonious fusion of fresh seafood, aromatic herbs, sun-kissed vegetables, and luscious olive oils, elevating Mediterranean cuisine to new heights.

Prepare to embark on a gastronomic journey filled with passion, authenticity, and the vibrant essence of the Mediterranean, as Chef Vassilis Tsatsakis invites you to savour the magic of his culinary creations through this interview.

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At what age did the desire to create through cooking begin?

Coming from Crete, as part of a genuine Cretan family, we spent much of our time inside the kitchen. I remember even from my elementary school years, I used to mingle in the kitchen. Later, when my family opened a tavern in the village, I found myself inevitably surrounded by ladles, pots, and pans. As time went on, I realised that I wanted to pursue cooking professionally.

How do you incorporate locality into your menu? What is the importance of local cuisine to you?

I incorporate the essence of local cuisine by delving into its rich history in each region. This allows me to add a creative touch without altering the recipe's fundamental elements and cultural significance. The allure and heritage of Greece's local cuisine have captivated me, and it has become an integral part of my culinary journey. I strive to discover the unique charm of each dish and subtly enhance it with modern cooking techniques while still paying homage to tradition.

How is seasonality influencing your menu? What is the importance of using seasonal products in creating your dishes?

Seasonality is of utmost concern for us as it enables us to maintain creativity and never cease to explore new culinary possibilities. Embracing seasonality rewards us with the delightful flavours that are at their peak during specific times of the year. In a country like Greece, where we are fortunate to have a wide variety of fresh produce available each season, it becomes a culinary aspiration to craft dishes that truly celebrate the best that each season has to offer.

How has the role of family affected your approach to cooking? Have you incorporated any family recipes or traditions into your menu?

I rarely cook my mother's recipes because I don't want to alter or influence the taste of the dishes I grew up with, as I fear it might tarnish my cherished childhood memories. Instead, I believe that the charm of cooking lies in embracing imperfections. For my family, I always prioritise cooking with seasonal ingredients and opt for simple recipes to cater to my young child's preferences.

I firmly believe that excessive baking, boiling, or overuse of salt and pepper can detract from the true essence of a dish. This philosophy mainly applies to the local cuisine surrounding my village. However, in my kitchen, I regularly incorporate traditional Greek recipes and techniques into my daily menus.

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Have you collaborated with other chefs or gastronomy professionals? What collaborations have been particularly important to you, and how have they influenced the way you cook?

Unfortunately, I did not have the honour to work with great chefs, but I had the privilege of collaborating with skilled cooks who taught me the selfless love for cooking, appreciation for ingredients, and how to truly embrace Greek cuisine through exploration and experimentation. Their influence has profoundly shaped the way I approach cooking, instilling in me a deep passion for culinary artistry and a profound connection to the rich flavours of Greece.

What is the identity of the food you present in your restaurant? What is the philosophy behind the choice of ingredients, cooking techniques, and presentation of dishes?

As a consultant chef, as I mentioned earlier, I conduct historical research for each location to create a Greek creative cuisine that is rooted in the local traditions. This approach applies not only to the choice of raw materials but also to the cooking techniques used in preparing the dishes.

How does the local tradition or local community preferences influence your choice of dishes?

The tradition of each place acts as a key catalyst for me when creating a menu or a recipe, and this varies throughout Greece. I always seek the input and assistance of the local community to help me in showcasing the unique flavours and specialties of each location.

What is the most popular dish on your menu, and why do you think it has become so beloved by customers?

In the restaurants, hotels, and my own establishment where I work, there are numerous dishes that I love. However, it's challenging to single out just one, as a father cannot easily distinguish between his children.

How would you describe the flavours that someone will find on your menu? What elements do you consider important to create balanced, flavourful compositions?

My menus are crafted with a focus on earthy tastes, which are influenced by various factors, including the season, locality, and the underlying philosophy of the restaurant. The key element that underpins my culinary creations is the use of high-quality raw materials and a strong emphasis on seasonality, ensuring that the dishes cater to the unique needs and preferences of the area and the restaurant's vision. This approach allows me to deliver balanced, flavourful compositions that truly reflect the essence of the ingredients and the spirit of the establishment.

What advice would you give to younger individuals aspiring to get involved in cooking, and what essential characteristics should a chef possess?

My advice would be that they must have a genuine passion for cooking and a love for what they do. Cooking is not as easy as it might be portrayed; it requires dedication, hard work, and perseverance. Patience, resilience, and a strong character are essential qualities for anyone aspiring to thrive in a kitchen environment. Embracing challenges with a positive attitude and continuously striving to improve their skills will be key to their success in the culinary world. Additionally, being open to learning from others, being adaptable, and having a keen sense of creativity will set them apart as a chef. Ultimately, a successful chef is someone who can handle the pressure of a fast-paced kitchen while maintaining a deep passion for creating delicious and memorable dishes.

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