Connector December 2023

CONNECTOR.AE 36 CONNECTOR.AE 37 Dining Around Dining Around Chef ’s Corner: Thomas Papas When a specific dish at a restaurant delights us, or when the overall cuisine of a particular restaurant impresses us, we often express our admiration, and praise the restaurant for the excellent food it provides. While the restaurant strives to maintain high quality, it is the chef who works their magic in the kitchen. Chefs oversee restaurant operations, handling tasks from menu planning to food preparation, and ensuring the delivery of high-quality dishes to all patrons. And Connector recently had the opportunity to hear from the skilled chef Thomas Papas from the renowned Zenon restaurant in Dubai. This Mediterranean restaurant with Asian fusion is situated at Address Dubai Mall Hotel Lobby Level in Downtown Dubai. Hailing from Thessaloniki, Greece, Chef Thomas Papas has risen as a culinary sensation with a talent for creating exceptional dishes that captivate the senses. As the esteemed Head Chef of Zenon, he consistently pushes the limits of culinary innovation, bringing joy to diners through his gastronomic artistry. In this exclusive with Connector, Chef Thomas Papas shared his earliest cooking memory, his favourite dish, his culinary journey, and much more. Howdid you get started in the food industry? From an early age, I understood my passion for cooking and wanted to be a part of this industry. I often spent time cooking for my family because both of my parents were working. I cooked for friends as well, and they encouraged me to follow my dream. Over the years, I’ve worked in various roles, including as a bartender, waiter, and in fabric. However, after an accident left me unable to work, I decided to attend culinary school. After two years of study, I started my career in earnest. I’ve had the opportunity to travel with my job throughout Greece and Europe, and still, to this day, I fall more in love with cooking every day. Cooking, for me, is a lifestyle. What is your earliest cooking memory? My earliest cooking memory dates back to my childhood when I spent summers with my grandmother, who was an amazing cook. She would prepare meals for two families, typically around ten people, most days of the year. I never heard her complain about cooking; she did it with love. During those summers in my village, we made Trachanas, a traditional dish. I remember learning how to make it and how to work with the dough. The process was a cherished part of my childhood. I also have vivid memories of making tomato salsa, with large fires in barrels, creating a wonderful aroma. It’s a memory I treasure, just like it happened yesterday. What is your favourite dish from your country? Greece is a treasure trove of culinary delights. We have excellent vegetables, fish, shellfish, high-quality meat and more. It’s hard to choose, but if I had to pick one, I’d say cuttlefish stew. Cuttlefish is a less commonly used ingredient, but it’s tasty, and I would love to feature it on my menu someday. What is your go-to, easy snack for satisfying midnight cravings? When it comes to a quick and satisfying midnight snack, I always think of a delicious toasted sandwich with melting cheeses. It’s a fast, easy, and delicious choice for those late-night cravings. What is the one essential raw ingredient you cannot cook without from your country? Choosing just one essential ingredient from Greece is challenging, given the variety of high-quality products from small producers. However, if I were to pick one, it would be fresh aromatic herbs like oregano, thyme, and marjoram. These herbs are handcollected from the mountains and provide a unique and fresh flavour to my dishes. What is the standout dish to try at your restaurant? While there are several outstanding dishes on the menu, one that I’d highly recommend is the red Saganaki shrimp. It offers an exciting blend of flavours with the taste of the sea from the shrimps, the freshness of the tomato sauce, and the unique flavour of barrel-aged feta. Every bite of this dish brings back childhood memories for me.