As the first Greek chef to be awarded a coveted Michelin star, Lefteris Lazarou has travelled the world to offer food lovers a taste of the Mediterranean, specialising in fresh, zesty dishes made entirely of handpicked, locally-sourced ingredients.
We caught up with the chef to discuss his latest venture; curating the menus at the newly-opened CAYO Exclusive Resort and Spa, a design-led escape in the sought-after bay of Elounda, Crete.
What was your inspiration behind the menus at CAYO?
I took inspiration from Crete and its beautiful surroundings. There are numerous local farms, markets and organic gardens on the island – including CAYO’s own herb garden – that provided me with lots of inspiration for dishes.
In your opinion, what is special or unique about Greek cuisine?
For me, it has to be the Greek sea. It provides us with amazing fresh seafood that features in many of the dishes on CAYO’s menus.
What influences your cooking?
I am determined to promote and highlight the warm hospitality Greece is so well known for all over the globe through my cooking and create dishes that spark conversation and create lasting memories.
CAYO recently opened in Elounda, Crete. How do you think the hotel will change the food scene there?
CAYO has a team of excellent craftsmen who bring my dishes to life using the very best products and ingredients – the food is made with love and care and guests will be able to taste this with every course.
Which dish would you most recommend guests to try at CAYO?
It’s hard to say, but it’s definitely between the slowly cooked lamb, which we cook for 12 hours in total and serve with root celery puree, or the sea bream with cous cous; sea bream is one of my favourite fish to cook with.
The ingredients used at both CAYO and Varoulko are sourced locally – why do you think it’s important to follow this ethos?
I use mainly Greek ingredients and products within all of my kitchens, and I procure them as often as possible in order to support the local markets and suppliers.
What is your favourite ingredient?
I think my top three ingredients to cook with are fresh local seafood, olive oil and the meat that I find in each region I get called to create a menu for.
You’ve had such a successful career and travelled all over the world – what would you say has been your career highlight?
A particular career highlight was in 2002 when I was awarded a Michelin star and entered the pantheon of chefs who have all received such a highly-regarded mark of distinction.
A Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the healthiest in the world. What is it that appeals to you about Mediterranean cuisine? And what are the staple ingredients that you need to follow such a diet at home?
The staple ingredient is undoubtedly olive oil, you can’t create Mediterranean cuisine without it and it must be used ungrudgingly.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
My ultimate comfort meal is my mother’s moussaka, I’ve never quite perfected it and have such fond memories of eating it together as a family.
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