Alexandros Porfyris – Q&A with a Greek Head Chef
“You never do anything perfect, you’re just getting closer.” – Alexandros Porfyris
Today you are Head Chef in the UK – with a long international journey as a chef. When did it all start? When did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
When I was 16, I jokingly told my dad that I was going to be a chef while preparing a meal for him, and since then I’ve never looked back. Time flies.
Which cooking school did you visit at the beginning of your career as a chef?
I had to do three different jobs to attend the most prestigious culinary institute ‘le Monde’ in Athens. I will not forget how, for the first time in my life, I could not stop reading and learning.
You started as a young chef at the prestigious Lycabettus Boutique Hotel in Athens. An award-winning fine dining restaurant. What was your biggest experience as a young chef from this time?
My greatest learning moment was definitely the opportunity to work with Nikos Marianos, a great teacher, who was mentored by Ettore Botrini who is in the Michelin game now.
At the age of 18, you competed at Masterchef Greece and finished 10th out of 5,000 participants. What was your master dish?
My best dish in this competition was a perfectly cooked pheasant breast with boulangère potatoes and some vegetables. Simple but perfectly prepared as described by the renowned chefs.
Your move to Malta as Sous Chef in the famous Chapter One Restaurant brought you into contact with the French Mediterranean cuisine. What are examples of French Mediterranean cuisine and dishes?
I had the privilege of working with a great chef, Hiram Cassar, who keeps pushing to great levels in the industry at the moment. The best part was our locally sourced produce, from aquarelo rice and truffles to handpicked asparagus and bluefin tuna.
In 2015, it took you to London and you started cooking in Mayfair at Dukes Boutique Hotel, where Michelin-starred chef Nigel Mendham became your mentor. What are your best experiences from this time?
In fact, that was one of the best experiences of my career. This man pushed me to my limits several times, causing me to start from scratch again and again and learn to master everything I do.
There was a reason for everything we did.
Until recently, you managed your own kitchen as head chef of the independently owned Papillon Brasserie in Bromley, Kent. What happened?
I have until recently but I’m not anymore. The industry in London is currently facing a very difficult phase.
I started with Little Bay in Battersea and we are trying our best there, but who knows.
Can only try our best, what keeps us alive and happy is always the great feedback for our food. That never let me down.
‘Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.’ – Alexandros’ motto
Your goal is to combine fine French food with hearty, rustic food as much as possible. Do you have some typical dishes that explain it best?
Yes, one of them and actually a favourite is a typical foie gras ‘au torchon’ but our twist is a great home-made jam with seasonal local ingredients such as apricot, ginger and cayenne pepper on a fresh grilled sourdough slice of bread with a parsley salad and pickled shallot.
Your dishes are inspired by the French countryside: Do you have some examples of them?
One of my great inspirations is Pierre Koffman’s “Memories of Gascony”. It has many recipes that I tried to understand to the root and try to work on them and give a modern take.
I got inspired by one recipe of this book which is called Rats‘ Tails and it’s basically sugared doughnuts. So one day I woke up and put together a chocolate mousse moulded mouse with the sugared doughnut rat tail chasing a port salute piece of cheese and a rum glaze.
Your menus are based on seasonal ingredients. Do you have a close relationship with your suppliers and some producers of the ingredients you use?
It’s great working with suppliers that you can pay a visit once in a while and see how they’re improving their techniques and share your passion with them.
One and probably my favorite is Stefano from HQF.
Millers do great meat, Wright Brothers great fish. But in general, I wish I had the privilege to work with more of them.
“At the end of the day what’s perfect?
It’s different to everyone. It’s all good food.” – Alexandros Porfyris
Your roots are in Greece. The Greek cuisine has a great culture and taste. Would you be interested in developing new and modern Greek dishes?
I recently had an opportunity to take over a new Greek restaurant in Hong Kong, it felt like a dream coming true. I definitely want to find that opportunity in the future, but sometimes in life you have to let it come to you. What you always need to remember is – to keep working hard in silence and let success make the noise.
After so many experiences in different kitchens – how would you describe your culinary line today?
It’s a never-ending game, you keep learning every day, you never do anything perfect, you’re just getting closer. At the end of the day what’s perfect? It’s different to everyone. It’s all good food.
If you could choose a country in the world to do a job as a chef for some time, where would it be?
At the moment it’s still Hong Kong. Fingers crossed. You never know.
Thank you, Alexandros!