Chef interview: Yannis Manikis

The Istanbul-based chefs talks about his simple style

Yannis Manikis
Yannis Manikis

Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Centre executive chef Yannis Manikis shares the secret behind his efficiency and inventiveness when Caterer Middle East visited the hotel for the Hilton Worldwide EMEA F&B Masters and Conference

Your property opened just over a year ago; how would you say your team has progressed?
I’ve seen a lot of progress in the team through training, training, and more training. We have reached the point which we had planned to. Whatever we displayed at the Hilton Worldwide F&B Conference was not prepared for the summit exclusively; this is what we offer to our regular guests. When the team started, it was with a good base. And based on that, we went to the next level. This is how I operate: I upscale all the time and once we are 100% sure we have captured [the level we want to be at], we build on that.

What is the size of your team right now?
I have 78 chefs and 42 stewards.

What is your long-term vision for the team and the F&B of this hotel?
We want to close the pâtisserie and create our sushi restaurant — so basically we want to take it away from The Globe [the hotel’s all-day dining venue]. We are trying to find another spot for a fine dining restaurant within the hotel, so this is our long-term goal as per the offerings of the property. Now for the kitchen vision, I cannot tell you specifically because food is like fashion, it evolves all the time. One of our main goals is to keep up with the times.

Is this the biggest kitchen you’ve ever worked in? Does that pose a challenge?
Yes it is. I wouldn’t say it is a challenge because I used to be in a hotel in Athens which had 500 rooms, and before that I was in a Sydney hotel with 650 rooms. Once you have a system or management method that is proven, tested, and working, then you just apply it to every hotel you go to, whether big or small.

What we wanted to do is keep the finesse of small outlets whilst attacking big venues. And we have managed to do it. Our offerings at The Globe are like some of the good restaurants in Istanbul. We have some small touches to keep that individual service in all our outlets, and we show finesse in our banqueting.

Why do you think Hilton Worldwide honoured you with its internal award of Hilton Executive Chef of the Year 2014?
I would say it’s because we, as a team, are keeping up with the trends, the team is doing great work, and everything is under our financial budget. And for a big hotel open for its first year, we were very profitable. So we served quality, we made presentations the way we wanted to, and at the end of all this, we did it within our budget.

Why did you enter the F&B industry?
I started in this industry at the age of 13. My family members were restaurateurs in Montreal so I grew up in that [food and beverage] environment. In the beginning, I just joined for the money. I liked the adrenalin of it and then I just got hooked.

Who would you say is your inspiration?
Thomas Keller. I like his clean style of presentation, I like his flavours. I worked with Charlie Trotter for a year-and-a-half in Chicago; he’s since passed away. I would say he’s my mentor, but Keller — I try to go closer to his style. I think we have the same vision in plating.

Speaking about plating vision, how would you describe your style of cooking?
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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