Chef Yiannis Baxevanis – the Greek ‘aroma magician’ casts his spell on Elia

December 1st, 2010

Chef Yiannis Baxevanis who is famous in Greece follows a golden rule – use organically grown natural herbs and keep it simple and healthy.


Ο Γιάννης Μπαξεβάνης για το εστιατόριο “Ελιά” στο Ντουμπάι

“You should get the flavour of the ingredients. Too many spices kills flavour,” the award winning celebrity Chef said during his recent visit to his restaurant Elia at the Majestic Hotel in Bur Dubai. There aren’t many Greek restaurants in UAE, but Elia more than makes up for that.

Greek cuisine is known for using a lot of natural herbs, of course, but Chef Yiannis made his mark and name in his home country by going back to his cultural roots and using aromatic and medicinal herbs growing in Greece’s beautiful country side and coastal areas. He has made ordinary herbs fashionable and his style is contemporary while drawing richly from traditional culinary practices. They call him the ‘aroma magician’ in Greece.

A chef’s skills may be important but Chef Yiannis insists that 70 per cent of the success of a dish lies in the ingredients used.

I asked him which herbs were most commonly used in Greek cuisine. The most important ones he said were oregano, thyme and ‘hortah’, a seasonal herb growing wild on the mountain sides everywhere in Greece.

His signature dish is ‘Seafood Youvetsi’ in which he uses herbs called ‘almira’ that grow in Greece’s coastal areas and therefore have a naturally salty taste.

The dish combines shrimps, calamari and mussels with a rice shaped pasta.

In the good old days the Greeks made this pasta painstakingly by hand, shaping each rice out of kneaded dough.

“That’s a lot of hard work,” I said, to which Chef Yiannis smiled and nodded.

“Greeks care a lot about good food and so the efforts were considered worthwhile. Now it is automated of course,” he said.

Chef Yiannis has his own restaurant in Athens called Duo-mazi (which means ‘two together’). After opening Elia in Dubai in 2007 he is a frequent visitor to UAE.

So you may catch a glimpse of Chef Yiannis if you visit Elia, where in a cosy setting you can enjoy trendy Greek cuisine and music. In fact all things Greek except the breaking of plates to the sounds of ‘whoppa’, which all us believe is an essential part of dining in Greece.

Now that’s truly not a Greek tradition, insist all the Greeks I know.

“It’s purely a Hollywood creation popularised in the film ‘Zorba the Greek’,” said Semina Markopoulou, the restaurant manager.

“We don’t break plates and you certainly won’t see it happening here in Elia,” she said.