The Daily Meal caught up with chef Jim Botsacos to learn about how his travels have influenced his work. Chef Botsacos is the founding chef and partner of the well-respected New York Greek restaurant Molyvos, as well as the Midtown Italian restaurant Abboccato. In addition to his own restaurants, the acclaimed chef has worked at some of New York’s best kitchens including The 21 Club, Park Avalon, and Blue Water Grill. He launched New Greek Foods LLC in 2011 and is currently working on expanding its product line, which includes Greek inspired foods like olive oil, spreads, and frozen foods.
The Daily Meal: What has been your most inspirational food experience while traveling?
Jim Botsacos: Prior to opening Molyvos, I took a research and development trip to Greece, and it ended up being one of the most inspirational food journeys I ever had. I visited cookbook author and food historian Aglaia Kremezi and she lead me shopping at the central market in Athens, and then we would go back to her apartment to recreate traditional dishes such as moussaka, trahana, and keftedes, to name a few. These dishes inspired the creation of the opening menu at Molyvos.
TDM: What’s your favorite kitchen souvenir from your travels?
JB: I have two: one is a large mortar and pestle that I purchased in Italy, which was quite a challenge to bring back to the U.S. The other is a cheese grater made out of olive wood. The cheese is inserted at the top, you turn the handle to grate the cheese, and the cheese falls into a box, which is placed below.
TDM: If you could eat your way through one country, which one would it be and why?
JB: Obviously I have a love for many Mediterranean countries, and Greece is up there in the top two; but I must say it would have to be Italy. The food experience in Italy overall is just amazing, but my love for pasta is what sets it over the top, making it my favorite eating destination. In particular, I love how the pastas change from the north to the south, with the shapes and stuffing and ingredients that are indigenous to each particular region. I find it both interesting and delicious.