Asimakis Chaniotis, executive head chef, Pied à Terre

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st January 2018

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Asimakis Chaniotis trained in Athens where he became a sous chef aged 21 before heading to London. At 22 he started at Pied à Terre for the first time and has worked with Marcus Eaves and Andy McFadden.

He also took on the head chef position at L’Autre Pied before the decision was made to sell it to Simon Rogan who recently opened the new Roganic there. He started as executive head chef at Pied à Terre in 2017 and hopes to bring the second Michelin star back to the legendry restaurant.

The Staff Canteen spoke to him about the importance of produce, his Greek inspired dishes and his ban on swearing in the kitchen.

BBQ suckling pig%2C king january cabbage%2C smoked eel%2C sweet soy reduction low res

BBQ suckling pig, king January

cabbage, smoked eel, sweet soy reduction

How did you get into the industry?

My dad was a plumber but I didn’t want to take over the business. I spent my childhood on holiday in Kefalonia, catching fish and hunting so this gave me a love for fresh produce. It’s so important for ingredients to be fresh, if not whatever you make with it won’t have any flavour. After I finished culinary school I spent three and a half years at one of the best restaurants in Athens.

I progressed to sous chef by the age of 21 and then I decided I needed something extra, what I was doing wasn’t enough for me. I came to London and worked in a friend’s restaurant for a few months but it wasn’t for me, I sent out my CV and Pied à Terre was the first place which invited me for a trial. After a year and a half I was sous chef, running the pass and working with Marcus Eaves.

Which chef do you think has influenced you the most in your career?

I take good things from everyone and I definitely have chefs I admire such as Thomas Keller. But I wouldn’t say my cooking is similar to anyone else. The first chef I worked with in Greece at Cape Sounio was a great influence on me, he’d worked in some fantastic restaurants around Europe. He was the kind of chef who wasn’t aggressive and he would take the time to explain to you the recipe and how to do it. He gave me the first push to fall in love with cooking as a profession.

You’ve also worked at L’Autre Pied haven’t you?

I worked with Andy (McFadden) for a year and a half at Pied à Terre before I decided I wanted to leave, I couldn’t get any higher up the ladder and I’d already spent five years working at the restaurant. I went for a trial at Per Se in New York and I got a chef job there but when I told David (Moore) he offered me the opportunity to take over at L’Autre Pied. I was there for 8 months and then it was sold so David approached me again and offered me exec head chef here. I was really happy, it’s nice to come back to a place where you started as chef de partie and now you are running the kitchen.

Info bar

5 chefs/restaurants you consider rising stars of the future

Launceston Place - Ben Murphy
Adam handling in Covent Garden
Typing room
Ormer Mayfair
Roganic

Guilty pleasures

Favorite food is eggs,crabs and all kind of offal(hearts, livers,kidneys,brains)

Top 5 restaurants

Meraki
The River Cafe
Greenhouse
Core
Bibendum

So what is it about Pied à Terre which keeps you coming back and what is your food style?

I love the style and the history – It’s been around for 27 years but it also has a great future. I’m a great lover of classic French cuisine but I also have my own influences, I’m Greek so I like to try and show that where I can. The dishes on the menu have changed quite a lot for example we have a smoked quail dish, we use cherry wood chips and it comes out on plate full of Douglas fir.

We smoke the quail in the kitchen and then when it’s presented to the guest in the restaurant they take off the cloche and you get all the nice, sweet flavours. Another we’re doing at the moment is a very traditional dish which my mum used to do when I was very young, it’s braised snails with red wine, baby onions and tomato. It’s a newer version of what she used to do.

Are you enjoying the freedom of being in charge at Pied à Terre?

Yes definitely, you can do what you want but obviously you are then liable – it’s your name on it! I’m spending more time in the restaurant too, I’m going to every table at least once to talk to customers and get their feedback.

I’ve changed the way we serve the canapes, they come in a special shell which I dive for in Greece when I go back on holiday. They are like huge mussel shells and they are like a pearl colour inside.

How do you feel about tasting menus? Are they something you want to keep at Pied à Terre?

I love a tasting menu and I’ll tell you why, this way I get a chance to try most of the dishes available. There’s been times when

citrus cremeux%2C confit lime%2C hazelnut shortbread%2C meringue a la francaise low res

citrus cremeux, confit

lime, hazelnut

shortbread, meringue

a la francaise 

I’ve gone to a restaurant and I’ve seen a dish on the a la carte which I’ve asked to be added to the tasting menu. It allows you to see most of the chef’s skills and what they can do. We have a la carte, chef’s tasting menu, our normal tasting menu, vegetarian tasting menu and the vegan tasting menu. I think the challenge is there and it’s not deskilling the chefs when you have so many different dishes to cook. If you only offer one tasting menu then yes that could get tiring but here the balance is nice.

You banned swearing when you took over, why and how has this been implemented?

It’s the first thing I did. When I went to Per Se I was wowed by the restaurant having 150 covers for lunch and dinner, 25 to 30 chefs and there was no shouting or swearing. There was no physical or mental abuse and I was so surprised having experienced all that in London. I wanted to make sure we have a nice, positive energy in the kitchen. There are nine of us in this kitchen and of course chefs will at some point get upset and they will swear because they’ve dropped something for example but that is not a problem. What I have banned is swearing at people, I want to be an example to my staff and I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated by anyone else and its working.

Tell us about your team?

Everyone left with Andy apart from two chefs and then I brought all the team with me from L’Autre Pied. The sous chef that I hired when I was still at Pied a Terre as a senior sous chef, stayed after Andy left. His name is Louis Korovillas and with him along with my other sous chef that came along from L’Autre Pied, Sean Norton, we have a very solid team. I couldn’t be more proud of the staff I’ve got at the moment! Sometimes I walk in and I might not be feeling great but their love for cooking is so inspiring that gives me the shivers. I want everyone to be happy with me and I want them to stay here – the longer they stay the better it is for the business, for me and for them.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

I’m always embracing challenges so I don’t really have one. It’s been a lovely journey generally and there hasn’t been a big challenge I’ve had to face….. yet!

What are your ambitions and goals for the restaurant?

Well I think like any chef I’d love to retain the star and bring a second one back. I’d like to bring the business back to its former glory and even higher than that. My dream is to achieve a Michelin star, I wake up every day for it. Most importantly we have to make sure the restaurant is working well for our customers and ourselves, we want to make every guest happy and that’s why we are here - the restaurant is my life.

Hand dived scottish scallops%2C kale%2C yuzu%2C meat radishes%2Cperigord truffle low res

Hand dived scottish scallops, kale, yuzu, meat

radishes, perigord truffle

How do you stand out as a chef and a restaurant in London?

There is competition everywhere! I suppose we just make sure we have amazing service, a great wine list, fantastic food and I make sure I come into the restaurant to get an understanding of what customers think. We stand out because we have a reputation and history which spans 27 years and even after this time it’s still a successful restaurant. A lot of restaurants close and it’s tough to keep the business running at this time.

Why have you chosen to stay living and working in London?

When I came to London when I was young, I didn’t like it. It’s so fast paced, aggressive and as a chef as well it breaks you. But as you stay here longer you end up loving it although the weather is still something I don’t like! I love the buzz and the things I hated when I first came I now love – I don’t think I’d be able to go and live back in Greece at the moment. It’s too relaxed – I’d go crazy.

You mentioned how important fresh produce is to you, talk to us about ingredients?

We get produce sent to us from France, Italy, Greece – my family makes olive oil so I bring that and use that in the restaurant. In terms of dairy and fish we try to use British products and we have a guy who I go hunting with for venison which we then break down in the restaurant. So it’s all about produce for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself here, I see myself as a partner in the restaurant, I see myself with my own Michelin star and becoming more and more involved with this restaurant. Maybe one day it may be my place, you never know!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st January 2018

Asimakis Chaniotis, executive head chef, Pied à Terre

IN ASSOCIATION WITH