I’m passionate about Greek food and Global Greek Gastronomy, that fusion of traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine that has spread across the world. In this special section of my blog, I want to promote the people and places that I believe are pioneering this trend.
In this very first post of a Greek chef and restaurant, I write about Panos Tsikas, chef at Selene, a restaurant on the island of Santorini that for over thirty years has been promoting a creative cuisine using local products. In 2010, owner Yiorgos Hatziyannakis decided with his manager and head sommelier, Georgia Tsara, to move to a new location in the medieval village of Pyrgos, where guests can enjoy not only a fine meal but also a visit to the Cultural Village (Santorini Museum), offering visitors the experience of the domestic, rural and traditional ways of life in the Santorini of the past.
Selene’s kitchen is led by Panos Tsikas, who arrived in Santorini last summer via an unusual path. Panos grew up on the small island of Paxos, near Corfu, in the Ionian Sea. He started playing around in the kitchen as a hobby from the age of ten, wanting to help out his parents “and because I just loved food. When I finished high school, cooking was a one-way street, and I went to the Le Monde cooking school in Athens for two years. In parallel, I started working at an Italian restaurant, where I discovered and came to adore that incredible world of gastronomy.”
Panos’ training took him on quite a journey, starting in northern Greece, where he spent five years in the resort of Porto Sani Village, then back to Athens to work at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Funky Gourmet. His first stop outside of Greece was an internship at the famed three-Michelin-starred Martín Berasategui in San Sebastián, Spain, which exposed him even further to fine cuisine. He then spent two years in Copenhagen’s three-star restaurant, Geranium, with another international highlight a short but intense internship in Perú at Astrid & Gastón, working with the famous chef Gastón Acurio. All in all, quite a journey for a young man from a tiny island in the Ionian Sea!
When I told Panos that his plates look like small pieces of art, he replied: “People need a small piece of art in their lives to feel better. In food, the story is the same - the first thing that come in touch with our food is our eyes…if we will like what we see, it will make us happy. We are trying in our jobs to make people happy and have a nice experience that will take them away from their problems and daily routine for few hours.”
Panos is a fan of the farm-to-table movement, choosing the ingredients for his dishes based on their seasonal availability. “I believe in those years of culinary wisdom when there were seasons in products and food. For example, tomatoes are at their best in August, not in December, I want to be honest and respect the taste buds of my clients.” That’s a philosophy I can’t argue with and it is one of the many reasons I started Zēlos - food must be honest.
If you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself on the island of Santorini, treat your senses at Selene with Panos’ Calamari with Fava and Dried Scallops or a savory Celeriac Mousse with Caramelized Onions and Rocket Sorbet.
Full disclosure: we DO NOT gain anything from these posts, we are not paid to advertise them; rather, we are honestly sharing our personal favorites for you to enjoy!
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