Kefi, FISHTAG, MP Taverna
Michael Psilakis has acquired many of the food world’s highest honors in the short time he has been on the culinary scene. In 2008 alone, Psilakis was awarded Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year distinctions; nominated for A-List Chef by Bravo TV; and had his upscale Greek restaurant, Anthos, nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best New Restaurant. He was also named “Chef of the Year” by Esquire Magazine and his restaurant Anthos was awarded a Michelin star and named the third of ten best new restaurants by The New York Times restaurant reviewer, Frank Bruni.
As the eldest first generation son in a traditional Greek family on Long Island, Psilakis was destined to embody the hospitality and appreciation for food so highly valued by his party-loving family. When his father installed an immense BBQ in the backyard, he taught young Michael to roast whole lambs on a spit.
A tremendous cook, the chef’s mother taught him everything about the flavors and techniques of classic Greek cooking and remains his greatest influence in the kitchen. “Even today, the flavors of my dishes are my mother’s flavors,” says Psilakis. “And my instincts for taking Greek cuisine in new directions—these I’ve inherited from her.”
In college he earned a BBA in accounting and finance as per his father’s wishes, but after found work as a waiter at T.G.I. Fridays, where the possibilities of a career in restaurant management first became apparent. Later he worked his way up the ranks at Café Angelica, a trattoria on Long Island, and eventually bought out the owners. Psilakis renamed it Ecco and established himself as a bona fide restaurateur.
Psilakis ran the front-of-house at Ecco for two years until one day when his chef and cook simply didn’t show. With reservations pending that evening, Psilakis stepped into the kitchen. This moment of crisis allowed his innate and indisputable talent as a chef to finally be revealed. One year later, with Psilakis in the kitchen, Ecco received a two-star rating from The New York Times.
The opening of his next venture Onera on Manhattan’s Upper West Side allowed Psilakis to realize a longtime dream and return to the cuisine that first ignited his passion for cooking. The unique upscale Greek-inspired cuisine he served at Onera earned him a reputation as a rising culinary star.
In 2006 he joined restaurateur Donatella Arpaia to open Dona restaurant, where he served First Generation cuisine—food that blended their modern American experiences with the cuisines of their parents’ Mediterranean homelands of Italy and Greece. The restaurant received two stars from The New York Times and was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in 2006. In early 2007 Dona was forced to close due to real estate issues.
Already in the works were plans for the two to bring new additions to the New York dining scene. Psilakis transformed Onera into Kefi, a rustic cozy neighborhood spot serving the Greek food he ate as a child. He moved his upscale Greek cooking from Onera to a larger stage with the opening of Anthos in midtown. Meaning rebirth or blossoming, Anthos features Psilakis’ signature Greek cuisine and has also earned numerous accolades. The restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin Star, being one of only two Greek restaurants in the world to hold that honor, and was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2008.
In December 2008, Psilakis and Arpaia relocated Kefi to a larger space, tripling the size of their beloved taverna. May 2009 brought a partnership with Kor Hotel Management to open Eos, a striking Mediterranean restaurant at the new Viceroy Miami at the IconBrickell urban resort enclave on Biscayne Bay.
In July 2009, Psilakis opened Gus & Gabriel, a gastropub honoring the two most influential men in his life, his late father Gus and four-year-old son Gabriel. Psilakis recently closed Gus & Gabriel and on November 29, 2010, opened his newest concept, FISHTAG, in the same location. Psilakis describes FISHTAG as a wine bar meets seafood restaurant—with a concise menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes complemented by an extensive selection of wines, beers and spirits.
On May 2011, Psilakis opened MP Taverna in Roslyn, NY, a modern interpretation of a traditional Greek tavern. This marked Psilakis’s first restaurant in Long Island since closing Ecco eight years before. A year later, Psilakis opened a second MP Taverna in Irvington, NY which will soon be followed by a third location in Astoria, NY.
Psilakis is the Co-Executive Producer and Co-Star of BBC AMERICA’s new original adventure cooking competition series, No Kitchen Required, which premieres in April 2012. The show follows three chefs as they are dropped into the most exotic and remote places on Earth.
Little, Brown published Psilakis’ first cookbook, How to Roast a Lamb, in October 2009. It has since gone on to win countless awards such as the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Foreign Cuisine.