Monday, November 26, 2007

Young Chef Spotlight Joanna (Ioanna) Kremmida

"Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean."

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

From the surface of a magnificent infinity pool on the island of Kefalonia, my mind is temporarily suspended in time. It is no ordinary scene from my daily life, but rather the gift of blissful contentment in a Shangri La of sorts, which I may refer to in the future and reflect as I do now. What did I ponder as I looked out onto the Ionian island of Ithaca in the distance? My evening meal…

There is a young Chef at the Hotel Emilisse named Joanna Kremmida. Although she is only 24 at the time that I write about this memory, she is a master of food preparation and of the very sort that I sought on my culinary adventure in Greece. The menu, which she is responsible for, is designed for a “Continental” audience, however, she is clearly inspired by her roots and the food she loved as a child. She knew that she wanted to be a Chef from the age of 18 upon her completion of high school.

Her extraordinary cooking talents were inspired by her Mother’s kitchen in the town of Megara, 40 kilometers to the west of Athens. Joanna arrived at Hotel Emilisse four years ago, but first under the tutelage of another Chef with whom she worked with on the island of Spetses. It was in this year that she recalls tasting a seafood risotto prepared by this Chef that transformed her life. It was “magic food” she recalled to me. Within a year she found herself on her own and has been in charge of this premiere seasonal restaurant kitchen ever since.

Even though Chef Kremmida’s belief is that global trends suggest a continued rise and appreciation in the cuisine of China and Japan, she is challenged by the “discipline and details” of French culinary arts and a desire to master the art of pasta making. Still when asked about her favorite food to prepare, she will answer, “Greek! In addition it is difficult to prepare, one reason being that there is a lot of olive oil in the preparation of so many Greek dishes, thus, it is necessary to find the perfect delicate balance. “Not too much and not too little”, she added. No dish that I tasted at the restaurant probably offered as much satisfaction as the lobster and spaghetti platter, which requires a 24-hour advance order. Naturally the appearance of fresh steamed colossal lobsters will delight any seafood loving audience, but somehow it was the fresh and simple tomato sauce for the spaghetti, which I recall most.

Chef Kremmida’s recipe for Fresh Tomato Sauce (Spaghetti for 2)

2 tblsp butter
½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
5 firm ripe tomatoes, grated
2 spring onion, chopped
1 glass dry white wine
2 tblsp dry basil (or 1 tablespoon of prepared basil pesto)
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of hot paprika
1 ½ tblsp white sugar

To garnish:
Fresh basil for garnish
Fresh cracked black pepper

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté the mixture until golden brown. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients. Reduce the sauce until the juice from the tomatoes has thickened. Pour the mixture over fresh cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with fresh basil and cracked black pepper.

My final evening at Hotel Emilisse was one, which I actually dreaded. To soften the harsh reality of departure, Chef Kremmida asked what I would like for my party’s farewell supper. I knew that her season at the hotel was coming to a close and that within a matter of days, she would be returning to her home and her Mother’s kitchen. “What is the dish which you miss the most and would like your Mother to cook for you when you come home?” I asked. “It is a slow cooked meal, prepared in a cast iron casserole. She combines chunks of lamb, veal and pork along with three cheeses, feta, Kefalouturi (a yellow goat cheese from Crete and harder than feta) and Metsovone (a smoked local goat cheese). She adds (red bell) peppers, tomatoes, a little olive oil and water, covers the dish and lets it slow cook at a very low temperature for at least 4 hours. I will make it for you and your guests as a farewell dinner.”

I can still recall the arrival of this dish! It appeared as a feast for the gods, a shared memory of home and all under the stars burning in the sky like butter lamps of the ancient Greek temples. The world must keep its eyes on this upcoming Chef. Her kindness even extended in presenting to me my favorite dessert in the world, “galaktoboureko”, the ultimate comfort dish with layers of filo dough and slow cooked semolina in sugar and milk. She understands how the power of food can translate as an expression of the soul and delight the occasional “accidental tourist”.
For the visit of a lifetime check out the link for Hotel Emilisse and the other expertly managed properties of the family owned Tsimaris boutique hotels at

While you are there, rent a car and explore the array of small fishing villages, delightful tavernas and dreamy hidden white-pebbled beaches in the land of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”.

by Scott Givot, CCP - IACP Secretary-Treasurer
Oslo, Norway

No comments: