Kitchen Inquisition: Michael Psilakis

Raw fish, sharp knives, and, now, Miami are a few of the Eos chef's favorite things

Award-winning Chef Michael Psilakis has recently switched gears from the hustle and bustle of New York to the sexy scenery of Miami. Eos, an opulently decorated, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, which recently opened in the new Viceroy Miami, is now home to Psilakis and Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. We were fortunate enough to sit down with him and pick his palette. Bon Appetit!

Which came first - deciding to move to Miami or deciding to open a restaurant in Miami?
I've been to Miami quite a few times because the Food & Wine Festival is down there. Miami's very different from New York, very dynamic. I felt that it was important, for me specifically, to move out of NY and move into a different market, and I felt that Miami was a good fit because of the Latino influence. I felt that Mediterranean food, which is what I do, would be well perceived there. So I'd say Miami hit me first, and then the restaurant.

I'm sure all the dishes on the Eos menu are like your children, but which one are you most proud of?

My favorite medium to work with is raw fish. What we've done as a group is take the Japanese sashimi sushi and sort of morph it into a Greek/Mediterranean sushi. I enjoy working in this median because we look at each one of these slices of fish as a platform. It's a one-bite object; I'm able to control the palette in one bite.

How would you describe Miami? Miami's dining scene?
I think because I haven't been classically trained in a school or restaurant, my concept in even a menu is different than most chefs. I try to take a more philosophical approach in a menu. I start writing words on the top of a page (for example, 'sexy'), then a thesis is developed, and the restaurant sort of develops from that thesis.

It's the people that really sort of drew me in to Miami. They define the culture in a very specific way. What I felt in Miami was a very sort of European way of approaching life. They live for life; they really enjoy life, they really participate in life. They care about how they look all the time, how they felt all the time. There's this healthy, fun energetic, sexy sort of vibe that is constant in Miami. That's what influenced our small plates.

The five ingredients every home kitchen should have?

Olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, and garlic.

The five utensils every home kitchen should have?
I always say: If you have a sharp knife, a pan, and some fire, you're ready to attack anything.

Which chefs inspire you?
Although I've never met him, French chef Michel Bras - he has a very Mediterranean approach, and the evolution of the palette and the combination of things he puts together really defines what my food reflects.

Your favorite dish growing up?

Every year for our birthdays, my mother would ask us what meal we'd like her to make for our special day. I chose a Greek dish called yioudarelakia, which is basically a meatball and rice soup with Avgolemono on top.

Your fondest food-related memory?
When I was on my honeymoon, I was on the mountains in Tuscany and we stopped at a two-star Michelin restaurant. It was an old horse-stable converted bed and breakfast overlooking this valley. It was just spectacular, and I remember with anticipation the excitement I had of eating there. The first course was a gift from kitchen-bruschetta. I remember I was somewhat disappointed; I was looking for something very elaborate. And then I ate it. And when I ate it, I felt like I was swimming in a pool of tomato. It was such a revelation; it changed my perspective on food and what food should be. It was just the simplicity of the item that really stuck in my mind.

Favorite dish to make at home?
Anything outside on the BBQ... bringing people together is what it's about. Home cooking for me has never been about evolving food and taking an artistic, cerebral approach to cooking -- it's about bringing your loved ones and friends together and making it enjoyable.


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