5 Minutes with Greek Chef Yiannis Baxevanis
Yiannis Baxevanis has been the head chef of the Greek restaurant Elia since it’s inception in 2007. He reflects on the restaurant’s success as it recently celebrated its seventh year anniversary.
Congratulations on seven years for Elia. When it comes to restaurants, is that a long time to keep going?
After 5 years your work starts to get recognition. The best advertising is people’s opinions of you. So if after 7 years, your work is consistently high quality then success follows.
When Elia first started, what was the goal of the project?
The aim was for people to become familiar with Greek cuisine and present it the way it should be. A lot of Greek restaurants in the UAE closed down and generally did not give Greek cuisine the best name. After 7 years we were able to reverse the tide and people have fallen in love with Greek cuisine and placed it in its rightful place at the top of their preference.
Did the goal of the project change as Dubai continued to progress?
Our goal didn’t change, it’s always been the same: To make Greek cuisine known. It may have been tougher due to the large number of restaurants sprouting up like mushrooms all over the city.
What are the key elements of Greek cuisine?
The characteristics of Greek cuisine are the aromas and certain very special flavours. The most characteristic trait is that Cretan Greek cuisine is the starting point of Mediterranean cuisine which is widely known as the healthiest in the world. I think that says it all.
Are you surprised there are not many Greek restaurants in the UAE?
No I’m not, because there was a lack of professionalism in the approach to opening a Greek restaurant. Now they are starting and viewing it more seriously so I see more good Greek restaurants opening in the counrty.
I always saw a large contingent of Emiratis eating in Elia. What is it about Greek food that makes it work very well with the locals?
We generally have a lot of local clients in our restaurant. Our cuisines have many similarities and we Greeks have long-standing commercial relations with Arab nations so all of this has positively influenced both our cultures. Going out into the market here in the UAE, one can find many similarities between what’s available in Greece and here: wild greens, spices and even the markets themselves look alike.
If there is one dish we need to try in Elia, what would you recommend?
Carob bread with tarama salad or eggplant salad is a flavour you cannot find anywhere else, at least in the Emirates.
Elia is located at the Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai. For details call 04 359 8888 or click on www.majestichotels.com
Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM