2008 Best New Chef Award Profile
Why he won Because he has ingeniously redefined Greek cooking in America.
Born New York City; 1968.
First career Accounting. “Then I decided to go to law school and started waiting tables at T.G.I. Friday’s to pay for it. I found out I liked the restaurant industry.”
How he got into cooking “I bought a restaurant on Long Island, Café Angelica, and worked as a maître d’. I loved it; it was like My Big Fat Greek Wedding every night. One day, the chef left without notice. Customers were coming, so I went back to the kitchen and did the best I could. It wasn’t a fun day, but it was a fortunate one.”
Flavor obesession “I’m an acid freak. The more complex a dish is, the more important acidity is—it stops palate fatigue. It keeps you going after the fourth or fifth bite.”
Fantasy restaurant partner Jim Morrison. “The food would be deeply conceptual, and the crowd would be artsy and intellectual. I’d love to know what his foodie friends—if he had any—would have thought.”
Other restaurants Kefi, a casual Greek spot, and Mia Dona, a casual Italian-Med place.
Recipes by Michael Psilakis :
Chicken with Zucchini Salad
1. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2. 1 large garlic clove
3. 1 small shallot, chopped
4. 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped dill
5. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7. 2 tablespoons chopped mint
8. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
9. 4 boneless chicken breast halves, with skin (2 pounds)
10. 2 medium yellow squash (1 pound), sliced crosswise on the diagonal 1/3 inch thick
11. 2 medium zucchini (1 pound), sliced crosswise on the diagonal 1/3 inch thick
12. 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
1. In a blender, combine the lemon juice with the garlic, shallot, dill and mustard and puree until smooth. With the machine on, slowly pour in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in the mint and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
2. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a shallow bowl, coat the chicken with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the yellow squash and zucchini with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the squash and zucchini, turning once, until tender and slightly charred, about 3 minutes total. Transfer the vegetables to a platter and keep warm.
4. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the platter and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.
Greek-Style Vegetable Risotto
1. 6 cups vegetable stock or low-sodium broth
2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3. 1 small onion, finely chopped
4. 1 pound arborio rice (2 cups)
5. 1 large zucchini (10 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
6. 4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
7. 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
8. One 1/2-pound bunch of arugula, large stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
9. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
10. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of the vegetable stock to a simmer. In another medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion to the oil and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and cook, stirring, until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding the hot stock, 1 cup at a time and stirring occasionally until it is completely absorbed before adding more. Continue cooking until the rice is al dente and the liquid is thickened, about 20 minutes total.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the zucchini and scallions and cook over moderately high heat until just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and arugula and cook until the arugula is wilted, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 cup of vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
3. Stir the vegetables and their liquid into the risotto and cook until the rice is creamy, about 1 minute. Season the risotto with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls and serve with Parmesan cheese.