With a career that includes key positions in the kitchens of well-known restaurants in Greece, the executive chef of Cavo Tagoo, Vangelis Leousis, talks about his own gastronomy, inspiration, but also his love for cooking, which as he says is never-ending. How did his involvement with cooking begin? What continues to inspire him and how did the collaboration with Cavo Tagoo come about? What is his relationship with the island of Mykonos and what are the effects of the pandemic on his work? The chef gives us all the answers.
“From the age of 18 I have been working on what turned out to be my greatest passion. I have not done any other work in my life. Just that”.
How did your involvement with cooking come about?
I just woke up one day and said I wanted to follow this path. I did not cook since I was a kid, I did not have any trigger from my family, nothing! From the age of 18 I have been working on what turned out to be my greatest passion. I have not done any other work in my life. Just that.
What kind of cuisine do you represent as a chef?
In recent years I have been dealing with Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. I clearly love Greek cuisine, but I have based on the first two I mentioned above, as the restaurants I work in have this philosophy, such as Cash in Kifissia, Cavo Tagoo in Mykonos and Zuma which is purely Japanese. Even before that, of course, I had the same philosophy.
“A chef gives and receives through his food. Gives flavors and receives emotions. And all this gives you the energy and the will to move on”.
What is it that keeps your interest undiminished and activates your creativity?
Love! It does not stop, as you constantly have new things to discover, try and make. It is also the part of the service. In other words, to see a customer leave your restaurant happy and satisfied, eating things that you have thought of. You think that he would like it and in the end he really does. Then, you realize that you have achieved one of the many goals you have as a professional. A chef gives and receives through his food. Gives flavors and receives emotions. And all this gives you the energy and the will to move on.
How did the proposal to Cavo Tagoo come about?
My collaboration with Cavo Tagoo counts 5-6 years. I started as a third cook in 2008 about five years ago, I returned with the executive chef Chronis Damalas, who was at the hotel until last year. Since this year, I have taken on the role of executive chef. I also collaborate with Zuma Restaurant, located within Cavo Tagoo.
“Mykonos has its own unique vibes. It has an energy that is very difficult to explain. It is beautiful, has many beaches, countless choices of entertainment and food”.
When did you first visit Mykonos? What do you like most about the island?
I was 20 years old when I first visited the island for a vacation. Mykonos has its own unique vibes. It has an energy that is very difficult to explain. It is beautiful, has many beaches, countless choices of entertainment and food. Due to work I do not have much time to explore it – especially in previous years. This year for the first time, since the Zuma restaurant also has its own executive chef and sous chef, there is a little more free time in order to explore it and discover different places. For food, let’s say, I like to go to Noema in Chora, while for swimming I enjoy a swim in Ornos.
In general, there is a great demand from foreign and Greek tourists for local products. Do you use local Mykonian products for your menu?
Our breakfast has a more Mediterranean philosophy because it has to be in this pattern, so we work with several producers here on the island, mainly for dairy products and cured meat products. However, we do not cooperate exclusively with producers from Mykonos, but also with producers from the Cyclades, such as Tinos and Syros. We want to emphasize local production and in the future we intend to do even more collaborations, since the Zuma restaurant, from next year, will be transferred to its own space, which will be located right next to Cavo Tagoo.
What do you think is what makes Mykonos stand out gastronomically?
Mykonos has many good cooks. People who come to the island to work in the field, can cope with this volume of work that exists, without losing quality. The teams that are created are very strong and this definitely brings only positive results.
“What worries me the most is winter, because we do not know what to expect. If things do not go well, this will affect the cooks, the waiters and everyone who works in a kitchen”.
With the pandemic affecting your field too, what are your thoughts for the future?
I want to believe that the pandemic will end. I also believe that the gastronomy part will not be affected anymore – at least for the immediate future. What worries me the most is winter, because we do not know what to expect. If things do not go well, this will affect the cooks, the waiters and everyone who works in a kitchen.
Did the emergency measures taken in July in Mykonos affect you?
Of course, they influenced us, as well as the other companies. There have been cancellations at both the hotel and the restaurant. And the cancellations will continue as long as it sounds like the island might be closed again. These rumors are not doing us any good. But what I have to say is that all businesses are very careful. I know both from my colleagues and from personal experience that the measures are scrupulously followed. We are all very strict in this part.
Were there any easy and difficult times you faced as a chef lately?
No, but imagine finding a coronavirus case in the kitchen and out of forty, twenty should leave. That is why we are twice as careful and at the same time strict with the rules, so as not to get to this point. The unfortunate thing, well, is that we are dealing with this situation at a very big extend. But as regards the good news, the business is going very well. Fortunately, following all the measures, we keep our customers happy. The most important thing is that we are a close-knit team, we have good cooperation and we hope that there will be no problems in the future with everything we have been experiencing since March 2020. I want to think positively only.