Who is Alexandros Charalabopoulos?
I was born in Athens in 1980 but most of my summers were spend in northern Messinia where my father comes from and Tzoumerka Ioannina, my mother’s place of origin. That influenced my professional career much later due to the village life and the memories which were created there.
When did you decide to become a chef, and who gave you the motivation to follow this profession? Where did you follow your culinary education?
My first love was pastry making from a very young age! However, after attending the School of Tourism in Anavyssos for Hotel studies, I came into direct contact with the professional kitchen and that overtook me. I then decided to continue with the cooking courses of the same school. My enthusiasm and my willingness to learn helped me to achieve a scholarship at the French culinary academy Le Cordon Bleu in London where I continued my studies.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
I started cooking professionally in 2003, however I was in the hotel and restaurant industry since 1999.
What is the meaning of traditional Greek cuisine for you?
For Greeks cooking is the memories we have from the family’s kitchen. The Sunday tables and the "feast" in the villages. For the guests of our country it’s the well-cooked dishes, aromatic vegetables, juicy fruit full of sweetness and the olive oil. This is the magical tasty experience that makes Greece unforgettable.
Is there an authentic Greek cuisine?
The actual Greek cuisine is within each and every one of us differently. It’s based on the way we lived our memories and experiences. We must not forget that the Greek cuisine has had many influences over the centuries from culinary cultures of other countries.
What would you call the most authentic Greek flavor?
Anything cooked with fresh, local ingredients giving a delicious and aromatic effect which will "travel" us to beautiful Greek destinations.
Tell us about your style of cooking.
After tasting various cuisines and ingredients over the years, I concluded that to cook with products from the incredible richness of the Greek land fulfills me more, but let’s not rule out the use of imported ingredients. Through my cooking I am trying in to succeed with flavors which will trigger fond memories to the Greeks and to tempt the tourists. And I like to do this with the use of modern cooking techniques.
How important are the ingredients you use?
When you have tasted the best aromatic vegetables and fruits from the grandmothers garden in the village, or you have tried milk straight from the animal, or freshly baked bread from a wood burning oven, then you always try to find and cook with the best ingredients available.
Do you have a favorite ingredient?
My favorites ingredients which I use almost in every menu I create are: mastic from the island of Chios, wild thyme, Greek olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes
Tell us about the restaurant you work for right now?
I worked until very recently in the Titania hotel's Olive Garden Restaurant in Athens. A roof top garden restaurant with a stunning view of the Acropolis. Like I said in recent years, I was trying to 'educate' people’s palates. Most of our customers were tourists and I was delighted that my Greek menu exited them.
As of September 2015 I will take over a new restaurant called Kastri Bistro in Hotel Domotel Kastri in the northern suburbs of Athens.
Is there a chef you admire?
Grant Achatz for everything he has accomplished despite his health problems, true will power. Marcus Wareing for the incredibly delicious dishes I tried and the organization of his kitchen. Mark Best for his extremely well-written book and of course many Greek colleagues.
Is it easy to find good staff for your kitchen?
The challenge is to choose people who love what they do and have the passion to work and willingness to learn. They must have a good character which I consider very important in order to maintain a good atmosphere in the kitchen.
Where would you travel to so you could search another country’s cuisine?
The whole world. Generally in my travels I search for local cuisines. Ideally I would like one of my next trips to be in Latin America.
What will your personal challenge be tomorrow?
To cook in restaurants abroad, so that I can demonstrate the Greek cuisine the way I understand it and to keep on writing new books.