Meet Chef Marko Rossi, Simply Genius
Marko Rossi has established his presence on the gastronomic map of the Greek cuisine and is now one of the most renowned chefs of the younger generation. As a Head Chef at Nixon, he initiated the Greek audience into Brunching, while 2016 was the year he (along with his colleague Maro Paraskevoudi) brought an ambience of Venezuelan and Colombian street food downtown Athens by creating Los Loros Arepas & Empanadas.
Q.What is the first and most intense culinary memory that you keep?
The very first thing that comes to mind; my grandmother’s soutzoukakia (baked meatballs in tomato sauce)…
Q.When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as a chef? When was the decisive moment and what made you choose this path?
As a child I never conformed to what I was obliged to do, I only devoted myself to what I liked. Since I never liked school, I wasn’t a diligent student. But I have loved food since I was young so it was clear to me, even before the age of 12, that this would be my career path.
While in Culinary School in both Greece and Switzerland I was determined to study hard because I found interest in this field. My unconventional and artistic nature has been expressed through cooking ever since.
Q.Were there any mentors or role models through the years that you look up to?
After completing my studies I worked both in Greece and abroad and I would describe my path as self-made. Since the age of 22 until today, 8 years in total, I’ve been the person in charge of cuisine, making decisions entirely on my own. It is in my nature to search for new ideas that haven’t been presented by others and as I am attracted to various cuisine styles I am always on a quest for innovative things. These days, at Los Loros, in Athens we offer people the chance to taste Venezuelan and Colombian food; something that didn’t exist before.
Q.Besides being a chef, you’re also a food stylist. How important are “first impressions” in a culinary experience?
As a food stylist I work to create a presentable image of a dish using props, for example vintage cutlery, plates and textiles; I then collaborate with a photographer in order to publish those images in a magazine or online.
In terms of food styling as a chef, I think that simplicity is key; quality products creating a savory dish and presented in a rustic way are the way to go. Working on styling a dish for more than two minutes to me seems like missing the point.
Q.In an interview you mentioned that “One’s cooking is a reflection of themselves”. What does cooking mean to you and what emotions do you attempt to evoke to people who try your culinary creations?
The sole purpose of my cooking is evoking emotions. It all depends on who I am cooking for; when you’re working as a chef at a restaurant you have to do your best and create a dish for whoever the client is. However, as a personal chef, when there is chemistry between a client and me, I put so much effort in creating a culinary experience as if it were for a person I loved. I cook with emotion and I try to evoke emotions. The greatest reward in my job is a client’s empty plate!
Q.Let’s talk about Antiparos… What is your most intense gastronomic memory of the island? What is your favorite dish and favorite place to eat?
When it comes to my comfort food choice in Antiparos I always go to Peramataki, a family tavern that uses homebred pork meat and top quality local products. My favorite dish is kremmydoeliopites, a long word for pie filled with onions and table olives. Although this isn’t a typical local food of Antiparos, it is very popular and it has been established as a traditional delicacy. What it local after all? Even if something was created twenty years ago in Antiparos, it could be considered ‘’a local food’’ these days.
Q.If you were to choose the most exquisite products of the land of Antiparos what would they be?
I spend my summers in Antiparos and I do private cooking sessions with people that have trusted me for years. What I attempt to do is bring out memories related to Antiparos and make use of products and recipes that had been left in the past. I like retrieving ideas of the past and giving them a new approach.
There are many local products in Antiparos; some are utilized while others are not and I honestly don’t understand the reason. For example, despite Antiparos being the sole island with so many rabbits, there hasn’t been an organized breeding for culinary use. Regarding dairy products, Antiparos boasts the best Xynomyzithra (soft and dry cheese) in Greece which is however only found in the island because there isn’t any creamery in Antiparos or an organized effort to take the product to Paros and then distribute it in shops all over Greece.
Q.What recipe would you make with local products from Antiparos?
I wouldn’t suggest a recipe, as I like to follow impromptu ideas. Some of the local products, as I previously mentioned, that could be used as key ingredients include rabbit and xynomyzithra, sweet myzithra, the wild goats found in the small uninhabited island of Despotiko, caper, throumbi (thyme) found in the mountainsides of Antiparos and hoirosfagia (pork).
An idea that comes to mind is to make handmade ravioli, filled with xynomyzithra and cooked in tomato sauce with aromatic herbs. I always go for the inspiration of the moment.
Q.What can be done for the promotion of these products?
The products of Antiparos are exquisite and this is why next year, in collaboration with the mayor of Antiparos, I plan to organize the first Gastronomy Festival on the island so as to gather the local forces of the island and collaborate in order to promote the unique culinary experience that Antiparos has to offer.
Q.What does the phrase “Greek Cuisine” mean to you?
If I had to describe the basics of Greek Cuisine it would be more than Greek tomato salad, moussaka or souvlaki. Greek cuisine is agrotourism; it is the experience of visiting a place and tasting its top quality, local products, cooked traditionally.