The Greek island of Kefalonia has long been regarded for its beauty and stunning views, but that's not the only reason to visit this magical island. As Chef Savvas Tzavaras, leader of our cooking team at Mnistires Restaurant, can attest to, this island also has a plethora of local ingredients that make some wonderful dishes. Learn all about Chef’s love of Kefalonia cooking and food in this interview.

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

When did you start with Odyssey hotel?

I joined the Odyssey team in May 2017, at short notice but not a difficult decision to make. Over the following summer seasons, I have had the opportunity to work with a great team, well organized kitchen in a hotel that is situated in an amazing location, with modern vision. This, with the trust that management has bestowed in me, as a whole, drew me in, without any doubt.

What do you enjoy most about working in Kefalonia?

Living in Kefalonia enriches your being. There is a high standard of living here, with the quality of unique produce, sleeping to the sound of the sea and waking up to the aroma of thyme. Filling your table with seafood, and local meat, cheese, olive oil, honey and vegetables, growing under the shade of Ainos Mountain, that’s what makes you rich. The island has amazing and truly unique produce. Under the beautiful landscape there is a very interesting world, full of surprises like the deep waters of the Ionian Sea. They are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

What do you think guests value or enjoy about Odyssey hotel?

They appreciate the friendly hospitality, professional service, perfect location and genuine pleasure the staff gets from meeting their requirements. There’s a strong emphasis on the culinary side, excellent food with some modern twists and authentic Greek hospitality.

If you had to describe Kefalonia in one word – what would it be?

It has to be “VERSATILE”. No Greek island offers so many contrasts as Kefalonia. This piece of land is a microcosm of extremes.

When did you start having an interest in cooking?

I started having an interest in cooking as a teenager. I would complete the food at home under my mum’s instruction and grandmother’s guidance, as both parents were working. It was a simple and boring process for me back then. However, it laid the foundations for experimenting and improvising. My childhood memories of food are: Greece, keftedes (meatballs), fasolada (bean soup) and Giouvetsi (orzo pasta and meat stew casserole).

What's your favorite ingredient or food to cook with? Your favourite dish to make?

Where should I start?.... Olive oil and honey, mastic and saffron, sea salt and smoked paprika, garlic and artichokes, bay leaves, and fresh mushrooms … I shall stop here. There are too many foods that I love. Hard to choose one. If I had a friend over for dinner, I would cook sea food risotto, for them.

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

How would you describe the cuisine of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel?

We offer different dining concepts in the hotel. The tasty breakfast ingredients with some variations daily, casual lunches with a lot of snacks in our menu. Dinner is sophisticated yet uncomplicated contemporary Greek cuisine, exposing our guests to the flavours of Greece, with strokes of global gastronomy. Everything is designed and prepared to honour the amazing produce we source from small producers of Kefalonia and our love of authentic Greek cuisine. This season’s recipes bring together some of the island’s and Greece’s most authentic ingredients: fresh vegetables and fruits, delicious Greek cheeses, Kefalonian herbs and honey, fresh fish, tender meat, local Robola wine and years of tradition; a taste of Greece in every bite. Ingredients that are typically produced only in small quantities, a synergy of man and nature, are cooked simply, without fancy techniques. Authenticity and simplicity are both synonymous of Greece.

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

What’s the philosophy behind Mnistires’ Restaurant menu?

Our food philosophy is strongly inspired by people, passion and heritage. What I mean here is, you need to search and find the right suppliers, people who share the same values and dreams, to work with.

People transmit their dedication and passion into food. This all connects at a very human level, often evoking memories. The smell of pastries and a pie baking very early in the morning, that little bite of cheese with some local honey, or my grandma’s recipe. Food can be very emotional and we see this when guests smile after one bite when you hear “I tried this for the first time and it was delicious!” or the satisfaction knowing they have been made happy, healthy and nourished by our food.

Traditional Greek cuisine has been scientifically acknowledged to be the best model of nutrition in the world. Greek cuisine is based on vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat, extra virgin olive oil, that protects against heart disease. Greek cuisine is rich in nutritional ingredients and low in fats, especially saturated fats that are the underlying cause of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and other ailments.

It’s our heritage. We use the same cheese making process as our ancestors did 4000 years ago… It is interesting to mention that ancient Greeks started making cheese early in time. The first reference to cheese is made by Homer, in the Odyssey. Ulysses on his way back from the Trojan War, reaches the island of the Cyclopes (gigantic one-eyed creatures) and encounters their leader Polyphemus (son of Poseidon and the nymph Thoosa) – who lives in a cave farming his sheep and making cheese.

Wine is still produced today on the island from ancient times. We learn traditional cooking from our grandmothers. We cook with extra virgin olive oil from our land (and not the one produced from genetically altered soy).

What dish of the menu are you proud of?

This is difficult question… I have pride in many dishes for many different reasons, some because guests love them so much, some because the story behind the main ingredient is very interesting, some because I created them from scratch and some because the recipe comes from a person I respect a lot. One of my favourite dishes, though, is my stuffed sole. A combination of the earth and the sea. Try it!

What do people ask for or order most?

That’s easy – They come to taste Greece…Greek Salad! Nothing is more Greek than our salad. Healthy, refreshing and an extremely flexible dish as a side, starter, main for lunch or dinner, with fish, meat or on its own.

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

What's the best piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting to cook?

The truly best advice I can give to everyone is to use simple, seasonal, non processed, authentic ingredients. Don’t be tempted by premade products with added preservatives and chemicals. Learn to manipulate your original, fresh produce to make delicious, healthy food. Cook simple!

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

Anything else you'd like to share with patrons of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel?

To quote my instructor from 23 years ago:

Many beautiful things can happen around the meal table”.

Food is a reason to gather people around the table, for conversation. Otherwise, food has no value without the people.

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

Fine dining at Kefalonia. Interview with Executive Chef Savvas Tzavaras of Mnistires Restaurant at Odyssey hotel

Mnistires Restaurant is open to anybody (non residents included) who wishes to eat there with the view of Ithaca. Often there is a breathtaking moon rise that you can see from the Restaurant and bar terrace. I recommend that you join us for an authentic experience.

Do you have a favourite drink or cocktail?

I enjoy wine, particularly, Mavrodaphne. If for some reason I should choose a cocktail, it would be a Greek Mojito!

What do you cook for your family at home?

At home I cook simple plates. I love fresh fish, meat, a lot of herbs, no processed food, freshly made pasta with fresh tomato and porcini wild mushrooms, legumes and pulses. Mama’s and Yiayia’s food.

How do you relax?

I have invested a lot of time in mosaic making and collection of wild mushrooms. Although cooking is my occupation, it relaxes me when it’s done without the pressure of time. The harmony of nature helps me to relax a lot: the sun, the sea, the evening breeze, and of course, the view from Agia Efimia, with its endless horizon, serving to cleanse my thoughts and my mind.


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Mnistires Restaurant

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