If the ultimate luxury is to have time to please yourself and those you cannot imagine life without, then, experiencing a gourmet dinner prepared just for you by a top private chef, must be a privilege worth writing thousands of words for.
Sure, we live in an era where chefs do not cook for a living – instead, they are the modern day equivalent of rock stars, because they have managed to level up the necessity of eating to a form of art.
But at the end of the day, chefs are cooks. Most of them lunatics, egomaniacs, or beautiful narcissists with sociopathic tendencies, who never once thought they could actually change the world. They have always desperately loved a working kitchen and raw materials to play withbecause to them, food is not just a necessity, but a pleasure. And giving pleasure is an act of pure love: more delicate, more complex and far more important than receiving it. And so… they somehow did change the world we live in by playing with all of our senses. Bit by bit, bite after bite.
Panos Ioannidis is a private chef, whose CV will make you blush. Yes, he’s been a chef instructor for many years, while cooking exclusively for royalty, politicians and ambassadors for more than a decade. At the same time, he’s been into nutritional analysis, marketing and branding assistance, recipe development, food research and product testing, always in search for the new.
Yes, he has been a cook all of his life. But, surprisingly, he is the very definition of the humble and driven hard worker, who keeps walking, silently, never losing sight of the values he believes in. He is no lunatic, or egomaniac. Instead, he is a dreamer and a romantic fool. He is fundamentally different from the legion of all celebrated chefs. He still has that passionate curiosity and childlike enthusiasm. That is his fuel as he continues to relentlessly pursue his mission, which he himself with deconstructed simplicity defines as “the art of giving pleasure through food”.
And if you deconstruct him, the way he deconstructs food when he’s alone in his kitchen, you will discover that he is also an artist, a scientist, an inventor, a stage director, a designer, a philosopher, an anarchist, a lover, a father and an 8-year-old. All in one.
As of 2017, Panos Ioannidis has been a part of the Greek Master Chef team, along fellow celebrity chefs Sotiris Contizas and Dimitris Scarmoutsos. And despite that being a step only in his long career, the show has brought him on the spotlight not just for his exceptional culinary skills but also for the one thing he’s not responsible for: his looks.
A passionate driver, he gave up his off road motorcycle and black SUV, letting them rest for a week. Because, together, in a beautiful, anthracite Porsche Macan, we drove to his favourite diving destination, Sithonia, in Northern Greece. Where we discussed about everything, in between dives, and countless sandy miles.
What perfume do you wear?
Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani.
Which are your favorite colors?
Black, white, grey.
Name the one piece of clothing, jewellery or accessory you simply could not imagine life without.
The silver ring my father designed for me. A shirt that once belonged to him. The handmade leather shoes by Kwnstantinos (double monk straps and boots in tan and blue-black). And my Chuck Taylors.
Which fabric describes you best?
Spaghetti al pomodoro e basilico.
Tequila. Reposado or añejo.
The one ingredient you’d prefer to never use.
Feta cheese and coriander.
Jim Morrison. Anthony Hopkins. Dalí.
Name the man you have looked up to, while growing up. Who inspired you to be the man you have become?
My oldest cousin. Always traveling, driving fast cars, dealing with art and antiques. A very active man who thought nothing is impossible.
What is the first thing you would teach your son, in things style?
Keep it simple, never loud. And always remember: it’s the best materials that make the difference.
Name the most stylish man (dead or alive).
A chef you look up to.
Describe yourself using three words.
Cook. Strict. Sensitive.
What is the ultimate luxury for you.
Time. For yourself. And those you choose to stand by you. Moments deeply enjoyed.
What inspires you the most for each new dish or menu?
Everything can be inspiring, if you let it. But mostly it’s who you cook for. The person.
Describe cooking in three words.
Expression. Need. Creation.
If you were a dish, what would it be?
Homemade pasta, with a light, fresh sauce and many, many fresh cut herbs.
The most important lesson you were taught within a kitchen.
Believe in yourself. Make it count more than what others believe of you.
When did you know that this is what you wanted to do? Can you describe the exact moment?
I was very young, probably eight or nine years old. Surrounded by grandmothers who spent all day in the kitchen, a great-grandfather that was an important chef in Constantinople. Where I come from, kitchen was (and remains) a sacred place. Eating together was the single most sacred time of each day. And probably what glued us together. The spices and herbs used, their pots and their voices while cooking. I somehow knew it the day I decided to cook for the first time. The dish prepared was a disaster (I got slapped for ruining quite a few perfect mussels), but the joy of preparing it remains vivid.
How important are the ingredients used? What really constitutes luxury, when it comes to food?
Fresh, best of their kind ingredients. You can do magic with them. Time spent dedicated to them. And the wisdom to sometimes keeping it simple.
Who is the client that you would ideally serve?
Anyone who has an appetite and taste buds. Who appreciates and recognizes the absolute best ingredients and complicated methods used to create a dish prepared for him or her.
Where do you imagine yourself to be ideally in –say- ten years from now?
To have my own restaurant. A place where the quality of the ingredients and simplicity would have the leading roles. But, at the same time, I would never stop researching and developing new products. For the market. For every household.
Imagine you were to host a private dinner party, just for very few. Who would you ideally invite, serve and dine with?
Ideally? Someone I could be absolutely myself with. But I would also love to cook with Jamie Oliver once. He sounds like a particularly fun guy to spend time with. And Ferran Adrià – to watch his moves.
What kind of driver are you?
Fast, when I’m alone. But cautious, always. Driving empties my mind.
Do you enjoy speed?
Very much so. But I’ve set the limit to 180 km/h. Anything above that makes me nervous. And I don’t want to be nervous, I want to enjoy every mile, every second behind the wheel and every roar coming from the engine.
Describe the perfect car, the perfect time of day and the perfect soundtrack when driving.
At sunset, driving a black 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster. Listening to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. Right after AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”. And before Philip Glass’ “Glassworks”. An unimaginable combo, but it somehow makes total sense to me.
What does the word PORSCHE bring to your mind?
Steve McQueen. Les Mans. Speed. Joy of driving.
Which is your favorite model of all times?
I’m torn between the previously mentioned 1958 Speedster and the 2017 Porsche Macan S. Please, don’t make me choose. That week spent with the Macan made me a believer – it’s the perfect companion for someone like myself – who needs plenty of space as well as a wild at heart engine.
Is it the destination or the distance driven that counts?
Definitely the distance driven. The miles. How you felt along the way. The images that fed your eyes. The sounds in your ears. The company you shared this with.
Panos Ioannidis shot by Vangelis Kyris, exclusively for www.the6milliondollarstory.com
On the road with Chef Panos Ioannidis, in a razor sharp Porsche Macan, shot by Doya Karolini.
[And thank you Porsche & Porsche Hellas for this superhero of a car, the gorgeous Macan that brought us to Sithonia, a true diving paradise, all the way from Athens. And back. We genuinely enjoyed every second and every mile.]