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Theodoros Petrakis, La Scala, Hersonissos

When was it you first realized you wanted to be a CHEF?
I was still a student at the age of 15 when I started working in a hotel kitchen prepping cold plates and desserts and this began my love affair with food and cooking. My first cooking position was in Antwerp, Belgium in a fish restaurant and in addition to all the places I worked in Crete, I also worked in a french restaurant in Berlin.
What are your earliest food memories?
My Grandmother in Zaros would make Tzoulamas, which is a pie with liver, rice, raisins and pistachios. I also fondly recall her pancakes with „petmezi” (grape-must syrup) and taking the potatoes fresh out of the ground and roasting them immediately in a wood-burning oven.
When did you have your own establishment and where was it?
I opened my first restaurant in 1981 in Ammoudara. It was in a tourist location opposite the Agapi Beach hotel and it was a standard tavern catering to visitors to the island. I have opened many more in Crete over the years.           

What world cuisines interested you the most and who  influenced you the most?
Mediterranean cuisine has been my constant favorite with its abundance of vegetables, white meats, fresh fish, legumes, cheese and of course—olive oil. Two Chefs that I worked under when I was abroad- in Antwerp and in Berlin had the greatest influence on my career. 

Why do you find food so appealing?
You can constantly discover new tastes and the idea of trying to creatively match tastes and try new discoveries is an ongoing and never-ending process.
Any new ventures on the horizon?
My brother and I just recently opened a small local „Mezedopoleio” on a walking street in the center of Alikarnassos, so I will stick with this for a while.
Any advice for aspiring cooks?
Learn the basics in school and gain as much experience as possible. Most chefs are not „born into it”-- this is a position you really have to work hard at!

What would you have for your last dinner on earth and who would you choose to eat it with?
It would have to be Goat with artichokes and wild fennel in egg-lemon sauce and since my last dinner companion would undoubtedly have to be a „she”, my lady of choice would be Jennifer Lopez.


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