That was a time when I also did my military service as it was (and still is today) obligatory after school. I was sent to do it in Rodos. I was convinced they would put me in the kitchen due to my chef experience, but they actually put me in a tank with a big gun in my hands! For a person like me who hates war and any kind of weapon this was pretty scary. I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Within the first week in the military I realised my colleagues who were cooking meals for us had absolutely no experience. The food was really bad! So a friend of mine suggested that I go and speak with the chief officer and tell him about my cooking skills maybe he would agree to appoint me as a chef rather than a tank operator. It was a good plan! They kept me on the field for another month to learn how to shoot and get some discipline, but straight after that I was appointed as a chef. For 7 months I was preparing meals every day for 250 people (of course I had a few assistants in the kitchen to help me). The truth is I was not an experienced chef yet so often I had to call my mom to ask for some advice. I quickly got a hang of it though and always tried to satisfy everybody’s taste buds. I believe I did a really good job as I got many compliments for my cooking.
I finished my army service in October 2012 and came back to Poros. It was a quiet time on the island as the tourist season had just finished and winter was about to start. I decided to take some rest as in the army I was getting only 3-4 hours sleep a night. When new tourist season started I went back to work at Sirene Blue hotel. That was my last season there. In 2014 I started working with my parents at our family taverna – Apagio. During that year friends of my mom from the UK visited us and offered me a sous chef position at their new burger restaurant back home. I took the job and spent next 8 months in England. When I met my boss (who was a very tall and big guy) it turned out he used to be Rhianna’s bodyguard! It’s funny how I always meet these tall big guys! He told me that if anyone ever gave me any trouble I should say I work for “Big Ben” – that was his nickname. That made me feel pretty safe!
I quickly realised the food we were serving wasn’t very good. In my first 2-3 weeks there customers would send a lot of orders back. Everybody was wondering why this was happening. I observed the main chef and realised he was overdoing it with some ingredients for the burgers. I started feeling pretty frustrated. I went to talk to “Big Ben” and asked him to put me as head chef for a week or two and see if it improves. He agreed. We kept the same menu, but I changed the recipes a bit. The situation got better pretty much immediately, customers were much more satisfied with our food. I even created a brand new dish – chicken with caramelised bacon, onion and tomato in a brioche bread. The owner called it after me “Papadopollo” – pollo in Spanish means chicken. That was pretty cool.
One time my boss and I had an idea to have a Burger Challenge at our restaurant. The burger had 15 000 calories. We even got BBC from Brighton and a few newspapers covering it. I had to prepare the burger and eat it too. I managed to eat only half! It turned out to be a good advertisement for the restaurant. Even though they were very happy with my work and tried to convince me to stay, I decided to go back to Poros. I wanted to help my parents at our family taverna. It turned out the timing was really good as my brother Iakobos also decided to come back then (it was Easter time 2015).
Apart from Apagio I was also working in a few bars on Poros as a DJ. I guess I inherited the love for music (and an impressive vinyl record collection!) after my father. I particularly enjoy playing Reggae, SKA, rock’n roll and punk rock. I just looove the music of the 60s, 70s and 80s, mostly thanks to my dad who introduced me to it. But also my mom (who is English) has influenced my music choices, hence my admiration for The Who, The Jam, The Clash and Sex Pistols.
Sometimes I also get hired as a chef by private yacht owners or guests who charter them. I join them for a few weeks at a time. I make breakfast, lunch, dinner everyday while we are at sea. It’s a great experience as it feels like you are on holiday not at work. First thing you do after you wake up is go for a swim. You don’t even need a coffee! And that’s a big statement for a Greek person!