We talk to Chefs Ioannis, who helms the kitchen at Greek restaurant Alati
Before introducing our second Chef’s Choice Dinner at Alati, Angie (from Vanilla Beige) and I, had a chat with Chef Ioannis. We talked to him about his journey of becoming a chef, what message he wants to convey with Alati through his menu, his favourite ingredients and the ambience.
We’re also inviting you to our second exclusive EAT Family dinner on Tuesday 14 March, so keep reading.
About becoming a chef
Ioannis’ reasons to become a chef are quite simple – he likes to cook, he likes to eat, so why not do this professionally?
Growing up he didn’t want to go to university, he wanted to do something with food. Back then, being a chef was not the glamorous life people think it is today though. Nobody wanted to be a chef – it was almost looked down on and his friends definitely made fun of his choice! How this has changed over the years with all the cooking shows, competition and celebrity status of so many chefs.
Ioannis has seen it change in the 28 years he’s been in the culinary industry. He worked across the world, for different hotels and restaurants and now he settled down in Singapore: Cooking Greek food, for the first time. His ambition remains the same though – cooking good food with fresh ingredients to make people happy.
Alati is Ioannis’s first Greek restaurant and the cuisine is very near and dear to him. Born in Belgium because his parents fled the Greek war, Ioannis’ moved back to Athens when he was 5 years old. This is where he started his culinary journey.
Alati means salt in Greek and this is one of the two main ingredients used in the Greek cuisine: Salt and secondly Olive Oil. The Greek or Mediterranean cuisine is identified by its simplicity and honesty when using ingredients. When preparing the food, Ioannis wants the ingredients to speak for themselves. Mediterranean dishes are quite light since no butter or creams are used. Just salt and olive oil.
For Ioannis and Greek cuisine in general, ingredients are of utmost importance. There’s no cover up with sauces, strong spices or other additions. Fresh ingredients are the key.
Where possible Alati imports ingredients directly from Greece. Olive oil, honey, fish, fish roe – all are sourced and imported directly from the motherland and from the region that produces them best. Several times a week these ingredients are flown in.
Fish comes from Macedonia, Olive Oil from the Peloponnese, Honey from Central Greece. The latest addition is Trikalinos Bottarga – an award winning ingredient dubbed the Greek caviar. Exclusively available at Alati in Singapore.
About the Menu
The sea and summer are Ioannis’ main inspirations and transports him back to Greece and the Greek way of living. This is reflected in the menu. Dishes are light, can be shared and eaten all evening, even if it’s late.
Fish of course takes a prominent place on the menu and changes often pending on the season. Pending on the fish and your personal preference you can choose to have your fish grilled or salt baked. The latter is a great way to keep moist in the fish.
Chef’s favourite ingredient is cheese in general, no matter where the cheese is from. The Greek cheeses Feta and Haloumi are both featured on the menu and are very popular dishes as starter or for lunch.
Another favourite is the award winning Trikalinos Bottarga. Ioannis is the first to bring this exclusive ingredient to Singapore. Bottarga is cured Fish Roe from the Grey Mullet and considered the Greek caviar. It’s wrapped in bee-wax to protect the roe and when served as a starter, the wax is removed and it’s ready to go. It’s delicious by itself or served with sides of chopped capers, chopped egg and home made pita bread.
Other favourites on the menu are the Stuffed Squid with Spinach and Feta as well as the Grilled Langoustines with Ladolemono (Greek Lemon & Olive Oil sauce).
About the Ambience
Alati is a family restaurant. It’s not heavy fine dining – it’s a restaurant with a face and a personality. Let’s be friends. The restaurant feels like you’re coming home and can be at home. The atmosphere is very relaxed, cozy and comfortable. It’s a place to enjoy, relax and be happy.
Have something to eat, drink, make new friends and perhaps dance on the table. Yes, this is happening!
To read more about Ioannis, read the full interview on Vanilla Beige here.