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Restaurateur Yiannis Tsapinos, 7 Thalasses Restaurant

1. What did you do to prepare yourself to be a successful restaurateur?
After high school I finished a 3-year Hotel & Restaurant Management program in Rhodes and specialized in Food & Beverage. Even though I enjoy cooking, I never wanted to be a Chef because I prefer to be with the guests. I stayed and worked in Rhodes throughout my studies, then returned to Crete and worked in many positions in the F&B departments in a number of 5* hotels in the summer and private restaurants in the winter months. In addition, I took extra courses at a private international school in order to become a Sommelier.(Editor’s Note:  Yiannis is one of only a handful of Sommeliers on the island at present.)

2. Your first foray as an owner is now with 7 Thalasses?
Yes this is my first venture as part owner. From the very beginning our aim was always to have top quality at reasonable prices, thereby giving the best value for money. This turned out to be a good policy, most especially in these economic times when customers are looking for best value.

3.  Describe a „typical day” at a fine dining fish & seafood restaurant.
„It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it”. Fortunately, I have great partners and colleagues, so it makes the job that much easier since we divide up the tasks according to who is best at what.  Purchasing of fresh raw ingredients has to be done every morning. Before the lunch shift begins I discuss with the Sous Chef Manos Maniadakis, the daily specials and any extra requests or special parties/groups that we have to accomodate. Often these morning hours are taken up with meetings with winemakers, fishmongers and other producers. Then the business of service begins with lunch and continues till late in the night. This „front-of-the-house aspect is the most important and the most satisfying. It is my job to liase with the guests and ensure that their stay is a happy one so that they return time and time again.

4. Why do you think Cretan cuisine is becoming so important in world cuisines?
The raw ingredients that you find here that are indigenous to Crete make the cuisine completely original, which is one of the most important elements to a national cuisine. In addition, the fact that it is also very healthy, has added to its rise in prominence.

5. What is the strangest, most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Fried Frog’s Legs in Ioannina in northern Greece.

6. What’s your favorite Cretan dish?
I  would have to say Grouper baked in a wood oven with some wild mountain greens or fresh, seasonal vegetables.

7.  Which is your first love, wine or food?
To me they are inseparable, which is why I considered it important in my career to know about both. Cretan wines are coming into their own these days with some serious producers doing good things with local Cretan varieties. I believe that restaurants have an integral role in increasing the awareness of these wines. In preparing the wine list, I travelled around Greece trying out wines and establishing relationships with the Vintners in order to continue with our best-value-for-money philosophy even in the wine list.

8. Who’s the cook in your home and what is the most favorite food in the household?
I do cook on occasion, especially for family and friends, but not every day. I love to cook lobster and serve it with pasta, as well as stifado (ragout with onions & wine) from hare.

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