I studied tuberculosis at the Rockefeller University and was a PhD candidate at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. But as the years went by my family and I always held on to the dream of opening our own Greek restaurant. I always enjoyed the fast pace, the socializing, the joy people got from just sitting with friends and enjoying a meal and some drinks or even when their food would arrive on a delivery; their day just gets better.
I studied the bacteria Mycobacteria tuberculosis - we did our research with live animals, specifically mice, which were infected with tb and then monitored for disease development. The goal was to find a genetic candidate for a possible vaccine and to identify genes critical to disease development. I did similar work at Mt.Sinai except I studied flu like viruses. The kitchen is very much like a lab! There are many parallels, but the lab is much more restricted and precise where as I the kitchen can be very free and abstract.
I tapped into the memorable meals both my parents and grandparents would make for us and worked around those recipes for inspiration. The menu was a hit and it motivated me even further! I left the program and decided to take on the kitchen as my own lab.
And there my education, my research and my experimentation began. I then discovered it is an art with an endless palette of flavors I could create dishes that were unique but still maintained its Greek/Mediterranean character and appeal.
You can find inspiration anywhere! There is so much food out there and good and diverse food at that! It also keeps you on your toes and always evolving as you need to stay on top of your game and always fresh on the minds of your customers.
My influence comes from both what I’ve been raised on and our family roots in Anatolia (now the coast of Turkey). From both sides of our family we have recipes that have survived for three generations. You can see in many of our dishes we use many different spices typically seen from that region which had a fair share of marrying of middle eastern, Turkish and Greek flavors.
Our ingredients come from everywhere. I have purveyors that bring us fruit and vegetables from upstate New York and Long Island. We like to work with our local meat markets and seafood markets to support the community as best we can! We try to use as many Greek products as possible, especially now since Greece is going through an economic crisis. Every little bit helps support their economy.
My mom’s cupboards inspire me. I can visit her, open up her kitchen cabinets and find all the ingredients of my youth and sift around thinking about how I can use them differently. Like the Greek coffee I use on skirt steak as a rub or candied figs with lamb on the kebab. It’s nostalgic and playful.
The Monastiraki Bifteki, which is a ground pork and lamb kebab which we named after Monastiraki, Athens. It’s a popular item amongst the restaurants there and my parents would take us there as kids when we would visit Greece. It is definitely our best-selling entrée. Our fried feta cubes which are sesame crusted feta drizzled with honey are our best-selling appetizer and we have started seeing this pop up on other Greek restaurant menus.From our brunch menu our Spinach pie eggs Florentine dish has broken records as well!