x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Accessible Greek cuisine

Food guru The multiple-award-winning chef Yannis Baxevanis at Elia at the Majestic Hotel Dubai speaks about his mission, his menu and his moussaka.

Yannis Baxevanis says he reinvents traditional dishes.
Yannis Baxevanis says he reinvents traditional dishes.

Why isn't Greek food mentioned in the same breath as French, Italian or Chinese cuisine? We're not sure, but the multiple-award-winning chef Yannis Baxevanis is determined to change all that - starting at Elia at the Majestic Hotel Dubai. The Athens-based chef speaks about his mission, his menu and his moussaka.

I have been involved with Elia from its inception and was captivated by the idea of introducing contemporary Greek cuisine to the Dubai culinary scene. The owners of the Majestic Hotel are Greek and we had a common vision of the quality and style of Elia, from its food right down to its simple, authentic decor. I have designed a fresh presentation of authentic Greek dishes and am regularly in Dubai whenever the need arises at Elia to touch base with my team there and introduce new items on a seasonal basis.

Elia is Greek to its very core. Greece is so much more than the stereotypes. Many aspects of Greek culture and indeed Greek cuisine are yet undiscovered. Elia offers traditional Greek tastes with a bit of an alternative presentation. For example, moussaka is very much on the menu at Elia, but with a contemporary touch. I make it with seafood. Elia's concept revolves around great contemporary Greek food in a beautiful restaurant with an outdoor terrace surrounded by trees - sitting there sampling our Greek mezze or appetisers, you really feel you are in Greece. You don't really need Zorba the Greek and plate smashing to achieve that.

Greek food has not assumed its rightful place on the world's gastronomical map. Greek cuisine is fresh, healthy, light with the use of many fresh herbs, nuts, cheeses and of course olive oil. The Greek countryside is bountiful in natural ingredients. Ripe plump vegetables, fresh fish and seafood feature heavily in Greek food, which is something I don't believe people widely recognise. In Greece, I am known as an ambassador of sorts for Greek cuisine. The Baxevanis team has a vision: that Greek cuisine becomes recognised globally. Our first stop on this global mission is Elia at the Majestic Hotel.

By making great Greek cuisine accessible to them. By creating inspired menus steeped in Greek traditional flavours and aromas, with recipes reinventing age-old traditional dishes passed down from generation to generation, and bringing to the forefront regional delicacies so that everyone has a chance to sample them.

Fish, olive oil, and all the herbs and spices.

Chemicals and non-natural ingredients.

It's impossible for me to pick a favourite because each and every dish has received my dedication and was created with passion and a love for the ingredients.

I like to change items on the menu on a seasonal basis, so when this season is over we will be introducing some new dishes I have been working on.

I like all types of cuisine, as long as the dishes are well prepared. For example, I enjoy the various spicy dishes from India, but I am also very enthusiastic about Arabic cuisine, which is very close to Greek cuisine. I must admit good sushi has won me over, while at the same time French cuisine is always welcome. Elia Greek restaurant, Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Road, Dubai, 04 359 8888.