Kapernaros Nikolaos – Sous Chef at Hyatt Regency in Chicago
Kapernaros Nikolaos – Sous Chef at Hyatt Regency in Chicago. We have met him for an amazing interview.
You are a well experienced Greek chef, working today as Sous Chef at Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Where did you chef career started?
My career began in Greece, working on picturesque islands in the summer and in Athens during the winter months. The foundation of my career came at the Grand Resort Lagonissi, a 72-acre, five star Athenian Riviera private peninsula luxury resort and member of Leading Hotels of the World. In my fourteen years there I had the opportunity to work at a very high level with Michelin star chefs Jerome Serres, Edgar Bovier, Reto Lampart, Yiannis Baxevanis, Denio Bruci. I also had the chance to meet and prepare meals for celebrities including Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Depeche Mode, Scorpions, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jennifer Lopez, and Kylie Minogue.
Which cooking school did you visit first?
My culinary studies started at The Culinary Institute of Greece, Rhodes Island.
For the past seven years, I had the honor of demonstrating my knowledge and passion for cooking as a culinary instructor at the Culinary Institute of Greece at the School of Anavissos, Athens.
What is your culinary impression of Hyatt and general Chicago?
I recently relocated from Europe and joined the culinary team at Hyatt Regency Chicago, the largest Hyatt hotel in the world, by room count. I have the opportunity to work with great Chefs and cooks! Hyatt is a great company. They offered me the opportunity to participate in The Hyatt Good Taste Series Competition 2018 – Award for Excellence, only three weeks after I started in my current position. I was honored to win 1st place at the Midwest Regional Competition and later, represented the Midwest Region in the Americas Finals for the Hyatt Good Taste Series Competition 2018 – Award for Excellence among the 11 best HYATT Chefs in the United States.
Chicago is a very multi-cultural city with a lot of excellent chefs, restaurants and hotels! I love being surrounded by the best. It motivates me and keeps me competitive. I feel great being here. You can see and smell food all around the city! So many different cultures and cuisines!
Within your chef career you have worked in many different restaurants, hotels and countries. In which positive sense is Chicago different for you to work as chef?
It is so different in many aspects but the main difference is that there are so many different chefs and colleagues I can learn from in the area. And, there’s the influence of so many international cuisines, especially from the diverse culinary scene that is Chicago.
As Sous Chef at Hyatt Regency in Chicago; is your work related to international cooking?
I incorporate a lot of my Mediterranean, European and Greek influences in the daily specials at American Craft and when creating menus for VIP clients. It feels great to bring something different from my European background and combine it with elements of the American Cuisine. Sometimes I prepare the dishes as we originally do them in Europe.
Having so many experiences as Greek chef; how would you describe the modern Greek kitchen best?
Greece is a country of great culinary tradition. The culture and cuisine originated thousands of years ago and continues to evolve. There are a lot of talented Chefs and cooks in Greece. The modern Greek cuisine is a scene with a lot of new techniques and creations. The current trend is to honor the traditional dishes while presenting them in new ways.
How would you describe your own culinary line today?
I try to maintain the original flavors and traditions while adding elements from own personal experiences. Being here on the other side of the world gives me a whole new world of opportunities and ideas that I can incorporate into my creations! I always strive to have my dishes embody the wonderful essence of the Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. I want people to imagine a journey in their minds every time I cook for them.
Can you share some of your actual creations with us?
Having an original creation of something is very difficult these days. We are influenced by beautiful culinary ‘data’ from all over the globe! I cannot say that I have an actual creation but what I can say is that I have something unique on all of my plates!
What are some of the less known spices and ingredients you use, and in which creations?
I love using a lot of Greek spices and ingredients in my dishes! While the ingredients are well known you can combine them in different ways, creating unique results! I love cooking with my family’s olive oil and fresh oregano, rosemary, olive, lemons and oranges from our own farms back home! I am proud to incorporate these in my dishes because I know my family hand picks every olive used to make our own blend of olive oil! Virgin products with no chemicals!
What are some of your unique cooking techniques?
Most of my years I have been fortunate to work in the very best culinary environments, some of the best hotels and restaurants! I am addicted to exceptional taste and genuine fine dining! I love making everything from scratch and using fresh local ingredients in my cuisine! Making fresh pasta, making fresh dough, my own bread and desserts and all the stocks and sauces! In all these you need to have excellent technique and a strong culinary base!
What are the actual new elements at Chicago’s scene that you would like to import as a Chef?
Chicago has many great Chefs and a lot of awarded restaurants and hotels! As a start what I would like to import to my kitchen and, if possible in the future culinary scene in Chicago, is the love and respect I have for the culinary arts! I can’t wait to create my own menu, taking guests on a culinary journey along with my fusion cuisine; combining Mediterranean and Greek elements with the components I am learning from my fellow local Chefs.
Thank you so much Kapernaros Nikolaos.
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