SM: Cooking with my family is one of my favorite traditions. I’m from a big Greek family filled with a lot of talented chefs, so most of the time it’s pretty crazy in the kitchen and my official role usually becomes “head dishwasher.” Our family holidays together are never boring, I can tell you that.
My secret ingredients this holiday season are definitely Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum. As a chef, I am always looking for a unique spin on my recipes. It doesn’t have to be expensive or impossible to find. It’s just a matter of bringing that little extra “adventure” to the table when you’re at home, cooking and entertaining family and friends, especially around the holidays. I’ve found working spiced rum into my recipes is a fun way to give people a little something unexpected – it tastes great and is also a fun conversation topic when you’re presenting the food and drinks to your guests.
And I’m not sure about trends, but seasonal ingredients are something everyone who’s in a kitchen should always be paying attention to. It’s the best and most delicious way to keep your food relevant.
SM: Honestly, they both stand out to me for different reasons. However, learning how to cook in high profile competitions like Top Chef and Next Iron Chef have both helped teach me how to handle stressful situations. In general, I like to take everything as it comes and just try to enjoy the ride, and situations like I encountered on those shows just helped reinforce that for me.
FP: Your new venture in DC, Bearnaise sounds really exciting. What inspired you to go with that concept?
SM: Bearnaise is definitely a different departure from my other two restaurants in D.C. I wanted to branch out and do something different than burgers, milkshakes and pizza, so I am excited to venture into the world of steak frites. It’s also exciting because I have the support of my family who will be helping me get Bearnaise up and running.
FP: Sounds delicious. We have friends in DC so we’ll be sure to come by next time we visit!
Name three people you would invite for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
SM: First, I would invite Julia Child. I used to watch her cooking shows when I was studying my craft. I might prepare her a steak off the menu from my new restaurant, Bearnaise.
For my second invite, I guess I would give it to my Mom. I mean, my mom and Julia Child? That would be outrageously entertaining! She is an amazing cook in her own right, so I would have her bring her favorite dish to prepare for my guests. That’s actually one of my favorite entertaining tips, in general – have everyone bring something to get everyone involved in the meal.
Also, since we’re keeping it all ladies (and me), I think the First Lady would have to be my third guest. She would come with some great ingredients from the White House garden and the conversation itself would just be amazing.
FP: We loved watching you on Next Iron Chef. We have to ask about the ending. If you had to do it over again, would you team up with Marcel to put a twist on things in Kitchen Stadium?