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A renowned Chef in Crete
“All my childhood’s memories are linked with the sea, and this has always influenced my cooking”
Born at Piraeus, Athens’s harbour, Lefteri Lazarou started to work at the age of 15 with his father during the summer, in the kitchens of cruise-ships. Cooking for large and diverse groups of people taught him to adapt his Greek cooking with international flavours. His father’s influence strongly tinted his style: “Every night I remember his advice and the way he mapped out for me”.
Extensive travels around the oceans educated his taste and formed strong learning experiences, inspiring his cooking. Today, he keeps travelling but also takes pride to present Greek cuisine and to promote its constituents such as olive oil. Over the recent years, he has travelled to Argentina, Japan, the United-States and to most European capitals.
Lefteri Lazarou decided to open his own restaurant, “Varoulko”, in his native city of Piraeus in October 1987. The restaurant stood out for its creative dishes strongly influenced by Lefteri’s marine souvenirs. In 2004, the restaurant was moved to downtown Athens, and Lefteri Lazarou kept on creating new seafood dishes with different ingredients sourced on the local markets. The sourcing is very important, he tells us, as to prepare quality seafood, it is very difficult to only have one supplier.
Lefteri Lazarou was responsible, until 2011, for 2 of the 3 restaurants of Domes of Elounda, a beautiful boutique hotel in Elounda, in the North-East coast of Crete, where he works in close collaboration with his brigade. Eating at the “Topos 1910″ or at the “Anthos” is a culinary experience in itself, whether it is for an informal meal at the seaside, a light Cretan gourmet lunch, or a romantic dinner for two.
50 people work with the Chef spread across both restaurants. “Everyday is different with new challenges to take up. The most important for me is that we really have to work as a team to provide with the best results.”
Lefteri Lazarou believes that, above all, the dishes remain the single-most important elements of a restaurant. This is why he likes the restaurant atmosphere and decoration to remain simple and minimalist.
“I like sweet of course, life should be sweet”
All of his dishes obviously bear his signature but Lefteri Lazarou is especially renowned for his seafood dishes and in peculiar the soup of squids, kalamari with a pesto sauce.
Lefteri likes authentic ingredients and avoids substitutes. His favourite ingredient is olive oil of which he has become an ambassador promoting its virtues all over the world.
In the United-States, Lefteri Lazarou has been teaching the Greek cooking in one of the most renowned institutes, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In 1998, he cooked for the Greek government’s guests during the HELEXPO show in Lisbon, in Portugal. In 1999, he worked with the Foreign Office for various events. In 2000, Greek cuisine was proudly represented at the Sydney’s Olympics, thanks to his work. He also cooked in Valencia for the America’s Cup closing ceremony. As a member of the Greek Commerce Organisation, he represented Greece in China in last April 2008.
Since 1993, the Athinorama, the largest city guide of Athens, has awarding Lefteri with the “Golden Toque” and in 2009 and 2010, he received 2 awards for Varoulko: “Best Greek Cooking” and “One of the Best Restaurants in town”.
In 2002, the Michelin guide awarded him with his first star, putting him in the worldwide cooking elite. His restaurant Varoulko becomes a reference. In 2005 and 2009, the Status Magazine’s readers elected him “Chef of the Year”.
In 2006, Lefteri Lazarou published his first book “Lefteri Lazarou – 20 years of Varoulko”, by putting all his passion, his knowledge and his cooking signature.
The Chef’s words: “I don’t like planning for the future. I am the kind of man who lives one day at a time. I have a lot of ideas and I just try to realise them”.