Ioannis Stefanopoulos: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment

Executive chef Ioannis Stefanopoulos was born in Brussels, Belgium. His parents, who are Greek, moved there because of work. When he was five, he moved back to Athens, Greece. He started culinary school, when he was 16 and finished when he was 18. In Greece, he was required to go to the Army, so, after he did that, he started working in a professional kitchen. Ioannis has been working in the culinary industry for almost 28 years.

Meet Ioannis Stefanopoulos – an executive chef at Lazure Hotel & Marina 5*.

L: You started your career in your home country of Greece and then worked in Egypt, China, Maldives, and Singapore. What was the most interesting experience in your career?
IS: The most interesting experience I had when I was in China. Totally different world! From the food to the mentality. If you are reading about China in the magazines, be aware that is entirely different from the reality.

L: You used to work on the Maldives, a heaven on earth place, where a lot of people dream to come. How was it there?
IS: As a place for vacation Maldives are pretty nice. But for working there, you have to be physically ready. Imagine yourself to be in 2 km island around the sea, and you can’t escape to another place. In this 2 km area, you have to live and survive. No cars, no roads, no cafés, no restaurants etc. Just working, sleeping and not thinking too much.

L: What was the most challenging situation you had in your professional career?
IS: Definitely, the most challenging situation that I had in my professional career was when I worked as a Sous Chef in Vestin Athens, the period of Olimpic games in 2004. Very tired, very stressful but in the end, it was worth it.

L: Why did you decide to move from Singapore, such a vibrant city, to relatively quiet, but of course quite charming, Herceg Novi? Do you miss big city life?
IS: I see Herceg Novi as a real challenge for me to create something from the scratch that in Montenegro will be for sure unique and you cannot see anywhere else. Still, I do not miss the big city at all; here the people are very friendly.

L: What is your favorite cuisine and maybe a dish if you can name one or two? Why?
IS: My favorite cuisine is a cuisine that uses the best ingredients and spices. I love spices, especially spices with the right ingredients which are the most important thing in my opinion in the cuisine. So I like the Mediterranean but also Chinese, Indian because of the flavors and strong taste.

L: A lot of people watch popular culinary shows on TV and dream of becoming a professional cook someday, but probably what we see on TV is different from what with this profession means in reality. What is hidden behind the curtain?
IS: Good question. Life in the kitchen is entirely different from the life that TV chefs show up. It is ok when you cook for one plate for the TV show and different to pass this plate and recipe to production and to keep the consistency of it. The environment is like black and white, completely different. A lot of recipes they create are not right, and all this show with celebrities chefs’ life is not real.

L: Why and when did you decide to devote yourself to culinary? What are the best and worst parts of your job?
IS: When I was very young, I knew that I wanted to be a chef. I had an attraction to that job. So, I started culinary when I was 16. The best thing is that you are never bored because every day something new is happening, and the worst thing is that you don’t have a personal life. No weekend, no holiday, no vacation. All day, every day in the kitchen but I never regret it.

L: What would you recommend for young people who want to build their career as chefs? What to start from, what to pay attention to?
IS: For the young people, my advice is to keep the basic that they will learn at culinary school because in the real kitchen life is something different than books. I know the teachers. They told them especially from private schools that when they finish the school, they will become the chefs straight away. NO! You will start from very low, most of the times without any money to learn and after begin to build your career. So, to do this job, you have to be very focused, responsible and settled.

L: What do you like to eat at home?
IS: I don’t cook at home, sorry. The time that I spent at home, I prefer to do something with my family and no to be again to casseroles. But, if friends are visiting us, for sure, it is something I get involved. It is in my DNA anyway.

L: Do you have a favorite wine?
IS: I like the fruity one.

L: Are there any foods you don’t like?
IS: I don’t like the truffle oil. And the food that the smell is weird.

L: Best piece of advice you would give at home enthusiastic?
IS: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment. Nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes.

L: Where is your favorite place in the world?
IS: The place, where the people that I love and care – this is my favorite place.

L: If you have just one wish, what would it be?
IS: To lose 20 kg!!!

L: You got stuck on the desert island, what five ingredients you want to have with you?
IS: Sugar, flour, wine, cheese, and Turkish coffee.

 

This summer season, end of July, we are expecting the opening of exclusive complex Lazure Hotel & Marina Montenegro, at the entrance to the picturesque Kotor bay, next to the beautiful medieval city of Herceg Novi.

The restaurants and bars of the development celebrate traditional Montenegrin hospitality and freshness of local produce. You will have a chance to taste Mediterranean cuisine at its best, try local wines, and enjoy comforting marina view.