Vasilis Leonidou is no stranger to awards. Judged ‘Best Olive Oil Chef in the World’ in 2017 by Flos Olei, the prestiguous global olive oil competition, in 2022 Vasilis is once again looking forward to being at the helm of Avli’s award-winning kitchen.
“Avli has a tradition going back more than 30 years and I’m very proud to be here,” says Vasilis. “It’s always been a pioneering restaurant, presenting traditional Cretan gastronomy to the world, but also using creative contemporary techniques.”
Vasilis was born not in Crete but in the town of Agrinio, in western Greece, where his adventures in gastronomy began. His inspiration, like so many great chefs, was his mother.
“I started cooking at the age of ten,” he says. “My mother worked long hours and often before she came home, I would prepare dinner, working to her instructions. Of course she influenced me greatly.
“One of my favourite dishes of hers I love to prepare still - is seasonal horta with fresh tomato, feta cheese and of course, the best extra virgin olive oil. It’s simple, fresh, light and delicious, and I’m delighted it’s on the Avli menu.”
By the age of 15, Vasilis’ path was set. After leaving school he was accepted at the Le Monde Culinary School in Athens, he then worked his way up the hard way, through restaurants first in Agrinio, then the Greek capital, and eventually Crete.
“As a chef I’m inspired by the beautiful ingredients that we’re so lucky to have here on this island - the vegetables, the meat, the seafood, the dairy products, and of course premium quality Cretan olive oil that I love to cook with.
“At Avli we want to give our guests the chance to taste Cretan gastronomy as they would taste it at a family’s dinner table. Cretan cooking at its best is about being creative and having absolute respect for tradition. It’s these principles that are at the heart of Avli’s cuisine.”
“We’re very fortunate to have amazing local producers and suppliers, whether it’s a family cheesemaking business from the Amari valley, the best local olive oil producers or wine makers, we’re blessed to have such a wealth of excellent produce on our doorstep.
“It’s such an honour for me to be Avli’s executive chef and, to work with the Avli team who are all so passionate about gastronomy and ensuring every guest enjoys their experience to the full.”