Chef Pano Karatassos’ New Modern Greek Cookbook

Modern Greek Cooking by Pano Karatassos. Photo: Amazon

Modern Greek Cooking: 100 Recipes for Meze, Entrees and Desserts by Atlanta-based Greek-American chef Pano Karatassos is a wonderful resource for Greek cuisine in the acclaimed chef’s signature, healthier, style. The executive chef at Kyma, the celebrated Greek seafood restaurant in Buckhead, GA, since 2001, Karatassos has been in the hospitality industry for more than a quarter century. Modern Greek Cooking is his debut cookbook.

Published by Rizzoli New York, the book features updated recipes with delicious Greek flavor combinations and ingredients. Among the Meze, recipes for Spicy Red Pepper Feta Spread; Grilled Eggplant and Walnut Spread; Steamed Mussels with Feta Sauce; Braised Octopus with Pasta and Tomato Sauce; and Lamb Phyllo Spirals are included. Entrees showcase seafood with Braised Whole Fish with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Onions and Olive Oil; and Poached Cod with Clams and Melted Leeks; as well as meat dishes such as Grilled Lamb Chops with Greek Fries. Manouri Cheese Panna Cotta, Semolina Custard and Blueberry Phyllo Pies, and Hazelnut Baklava Sundaes are among the desserts. The luscious photographs are by Francesco Tonelli, a renowned food photographer whose images have appeared in some of the best-selling cookbooks in the United States.

Karatassos studied at the Culinary Institute of America and trained under world-renowned chefs Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Eric Ripert. Keller also penned the cookbook’s Foreword, noting the connection between food and memory for Karatassos who points out the influence his father and his Yiayia had on his culinary life.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Karatassos grew up in Lake Ozarks, Missouri, where his father Ignatius Pano Karatassos worked as a chef and lodge manager. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he “was barely aware of his Greek heritage” growing up until the family moved to Atlanta when the young Karatassos was just 8 years old. His maternal grandmother, Athanasia Tissura, moved in with the family there and young Pano fell in love with Greek cuisine, beginning his journey towards a culinary career.

In the cookbook’s introduction, Karatassos talks about his family and roots in Asia Minor. He writes, “Both my maternal and paternal grandparents left Asia Minor after the Greco-Turkish War in the early 1920’s and settled on the islands of Lesvos and Skiathos. Soon after that, my grandparents sailed to the United States and Savannah, Georgia became their new home.”

Karatassos continues, “Sharing our home with my grandmother while my father was growing a restaurant empire and my mother was busy raising three kids was always a culinary adventure.”

Of the family cooking tradition, he writes, “My mother was and is an incredible cook, but my yiayia ran the house like a chef… Even my father, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, valedictorian of his internship at The Greenbriar, and eventual chef-owner-creator of over 20 critically-acclaimed and successful restaurants in Atlanta and South Florida, would come home between shifts and eat her cooking. For him, it was like returning to his childhood home, as his mother, my other yiayia, Theone, was an incredible cook, too.”

Today, internationally known for his modern take on the Greek cuisine, Karatassos is a member of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America Society of Fellows and Kyma was named one of the 20 best restaurants in the country by Esquire magazine. In Greece, Karatassos is well known from his features in Ta Nea, Odyssey, Vogue Greece, and Keresma.

Modern Greek Cooking: 100 Recipes for Meze, Entrees and Desserts by chef Pano Karatassos is available online and in bookstores.