Five minutes with Nick Molyviatis

Nick Molyviatis is the former head chef at London’s Kiln in Soho, a Thai restaurant where he made his name cooking in front of diners in an open kitchen. Nick started life in Athens, Greece, and developed a love of global cuisines, with South East Asian flavours still influencing the food he cooks today.

We travelled to Elix, part of Mar-Bella Collection a hotel near Parga in Greece, to chat to Nick before he got started on his incredible eight course menu as part of the hotel’s Greek Chefs Abroad series. Nick told us about his love of potatoes, how he was planning on adapting Kokoretsi (a traditional Greek dish made with offal), and why he hates bullying in the kitchen. Plus, we find out Nick’s take on the Greek food scene in London…

Five minutes with Nick Molyviatis

What’s your first memory of food?

There were lots of things I hated as a kid. Spinach with rice, green bean stew, I didn’t like them at all. We grew up poor unfortunately but we would eat chickpeas one day, chickpeas with rice the day after. But now it’s what I want to cook and eat.

What’s the one dish you can’t live without?

Potatoes. Potato is my gateway carb. Whenever I want to go on a diet and I have potatoes, that’s it – there’s no going back.

Whenever I’m watching a cookery competition on TV with my girlfriend, she always asks me, “What would you cook?” and my answer is always larb – it’s becoming a running joke. But if we’re talking comfort food, my favourite dish would have to be some grilled meat with some chips or potatoes.

What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?


Of course! If you could have a one-off dinner party on your desert island, who would you invite?

My best friend Alex, he runs a place in Holborn called Catalyst café. I’d invite Tom Colicchio too (he’s in charge of Top Chef, the cooking show in America). Next up would be Anthony Bourdain: he has travelled everywhere so I think he’d be good to have around. And Nigella!

What do you do to relax?

I nap. Napping is my new thing. And I watch videos on YouTube… this is going to sound strange but I love to watch cow hoof restoration videos. It’s so relaxing, it’s so gnarly, you’ll see some things you’ll never forget. And cat videos. 90% of the videos I send to my girlfriend are cat videos.

Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you?

The preservation of the idea that if one person has suffered, someone else has to suffer. In terms of working hours, being treated poorly, being bullied as well. I don’t think that is a good way to go forward. I think a healthy way to see things is that if I have suffered, I have to be the last one. Draw a line and move forward. Some people think the more they have suffered, the more tough they are, such as going to work when sick, but this just makes everybody else sick and makes things even worse.

In terms of culture, yes: we have to work long hours. But we should try to make those the best hours of our lives. Some restaurant owners have said to me, “You’re having way too much fun in there”. But that’s a good thing! We’re on top of the numbers, we’re doing well. Why shouldn’t we be having fun too?

What has been the most formative experience of your career?

I think my trip to Japan. The place that showed me that no matter how casual or how high end the food you cook is, it has to be done with the same attention. It taught me that you should get the best ingredients you can, and treat them properly. Also, when I visited Thailand, I had a very good experience. Everyone wanted to open their homes to me and show me what they do. Eating with them, I still remember how they were smiling and how happy they were to show us their food. Everybody should be happy to show you their food culture.

I like to compare food culture to music. Think about Pink Floyd, their first two albums were nothing like the Pink Floyd we now know. But if those records didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have the amazingness that came after. In the same way, if we didn’t have the simple, pared back food that people eat, you wouldn’t have molecular gastronomy. You wouldn’t have innovation, the sparking of ideas.

How was your experience as head chef at Kiln?

I was the first one to go into the building. It was very hard because it was my first job as a head chef AND my first job cooking Thai food on my own. It was difficult in terms of trying to understand what needed to happen. Some dishes had as many as 12 revisions.

I still remember my old boss Ben telling me that Kiln might not be the most consistent food every day. If it’s a bit saltier or a bit spicier, or if ingredients change, then it’s okay as the experience the customers will get will be the same every day. I loved being in an open kitchen, being in front of people and being able to talk to them. I remember I asked if I was allowed to swear in front of customers, and Ben said of course, if you have to swear you have to swear! So it was just a very real kitchen.

What can you tell us about your collaboration with Elix?

This is the third year of the Greek Chefs Abroad series at Elix. The hotel wanted to invite Greek chefs from around the world with different experiences, and life experiences. People who would combine their Greek routes with things that they’ve gone through in other countries in their career. In the last two years, I’ve done a few events in the UK and in Greece, and so far this event here has been amazing. It’s very hard for us to finish prep and not feel stressed, but here, everything is under control.


What’s your favourite dish on the menu of your Greek Chefs Abroad dinner at Elix?

There are two. The first is the Kokoretsi – an intestine dish. It’s a very traditional dish that we have in Greece; it’s actually from ancient Greece, and they call it weave, because you weave it together. It sounds gruesome but you basically put heart, lungs and liver on a spit and roll it with the intestines and cook it in charcoal. We’re not doing that with this dish but all the elements are there: sweetbreads, hearts, liver, lungs. It’s the most Greek food you can get. In Turkey they do a similar thing but they cook it on a spit too and then put it in bread, I like that idea. In Thailand there are laabs, where they chop everything up. So today we’re doing a mixture of those three.

The other dish is the grouper fish dish. It’s a dish that comes from Mount Athos in Northern Greece, in the three-fingered peninsula. And one of those peninsulas is Mount Athos, and it’s self-governed, like the Vatican, and no women are allowed on it. The only woman allowed is the mother of God. There, because of the religion, for 40 days before Easter, you have to abstain from things that you enjoy, for Lent. So some people abstain from meat. So they use a lot of vegetables to give flavour to things, and a lot of techniques. They make a thing called onion water, which is basically a dashi made with onions. So I’m taking that, and one of the curries I enjoyed in Phuket, made with fermented fish intestines, and making a broth for the fish.


What do you think about the Greek dining scene in London?

I think the intentions are good, but the problem is that people are trying to deconstruct Greek dishes, like stifado: a stew made with rabbit, or veal or beef. Rabbit is the classic. But people are trying to recreate and modernise it. Which is amazing, but – modernise what? You can’t modernise something that people don’t know. I think Greek restaurants need to dial it down a bit and make something more basic. Only when we have the good basic Greek food can we move forward. It’s good that for example Sainsburys and M&S have moussaka, but imagine having the best moussaka?

Do you have any dreams or aspirations you’re yet to fulfil?

Since Covid, I’ve wanted to open a Greek restaurant in London, the way it should be done. I hope I will get to showcase Greek food philosophy. I’m not going to be trying to get the fish they catch in Greece and bring them to London, that would defeat the whole purpose of Greek food. But hopefully I will get to do something that will showcase the simple complexity of Greek cuisine.

Watch this space! To find out more about the Greek Chefs Abroad series at Elix, part of Mar-Bella Collection, click here.

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