Award-winning chef Alexandros Tsiotinis talks about his journey to opening up his own restaurant, his favourite cuisine, and which ingredient he loves cooking with most.
Born and raised in Athens, Tsiotinis’ interest in food began at a young age, and his desire to become an innovative chef led him to Paris, where he worked alongside culinary pioneers such as Alain Passard, Helene Darroze, Eric Frechon and Pascal Barbot.
It’s no surprise Tsiotinis would go on to achieve great things, including the opening of CTC Urban Gastronomy, a Michelin-awarded restaurant in Athens’ Keramaikos neighbourhood. Featuring both an elegant terrace and a cozy indoor dining space, here, Tsiotinis invites “guests” to sit back and enjoy a memorable dining experience via his creative degustation menu, which consists of one transcendently impressive dish after the other.
During our recent chat, he also let us in on where to go to taste the freshest fish! Read on to discover more.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and how it influenced your passion for food.
When I was a child, my Sunday table was always a point of reference. My family’s love of food and that nice feeling of sitting around a table is what made me realise that this is what I want my everyday life to be like.
When did you start your career as a chef?
When I was 17, right before finishing school, I decided to become a chef. Soon after that, at 18, I entered culinary school.
How did you find the transition from Athens to Paris?
After I began my studies in Athens, I realised that not only did I really like this profession, but that it also suited me. At the same time, I noticed the focus in Greece was far behind and if I wanted to improve, I needed to see things from a different perspective. Paris (and France in general) is the Mecca of gastronomy, so I decided my culinary future should unfold there.
What led you to open your own restaurant in Athens?
To me, a chef must be a traveller to gain both experience and knowledge from around the world. I also believe a chef should complete his “journey” at home. So, I decided to return to Athens and create my own space where I could express myself freely.
Having received so many accolades, including a Michelin star, what’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I really believe in crossroads, and I think the two most important ones for me were the day I started culinary school, followed by May 1st, 2015 when I became a restaurateur. This move opened up a completely different world for me.
What influences your creative dishes at CTC Urban Gastronomy?
Absolutely everything. Any image, taste, or even a memory can be transformed into a dish.
What standout dish have you created that’s been a huge hit with your guests?
I’ll tell you about a dish that was created within ten minutes and has been with me for the last ten years. It’s our signature sweetcorn velouté flavoured with lobster, truffle and a bergamot espuma. You will find this dish on all our menus.
Which ingredient do you love cooking with most?
I love citrus. I admire the way its flavours change like a chameleon; becoming sour, bitter, or even sweet- depending on the needs of each dish.
Having travelled the world, what country has impressed you with its cuisine?
I must mention France, with its culinary culture that captivates me to this day. But also Japan. As with everything else, the Japanese have created an incredible philosophy around food, which they adhere to.
Your ideal way to spend an afternoon away from the kitchen?
At home with friends, watching movies, playing games, and having a laugh.
What excites you most about Athens’ current dining scene?
That the locals have now become more knowledgeable about food. That they’re interested in something different. And they are embracing new efforts.
Finally, if you had friends from overseas visiting Athens for the first time, where would you take them for a night out?
To Kavos in Corinth, where they can discover the real taste of fresh fish.