For acclaimed chef Ari Vezené, cooking is both about finding one’s self and branching out: his practice is equally informed by the traditional cuisine of his native Ionian islands and a culinary diversity inspired by his extensive travels around the world. Born in New York City to Greek parents, Ari is a self-taught chef, butcher and restaurateur who turned to gastronomy after a degree in Finance and Marketing. After a decade honing his culinary skills in America, he returned to his ancestral homeland in 2005, opening his first restaurant Trattoria Vezené in 2008 at Meganisi, a small Ionian island. Three years later, he opens Vezené, a “Greek Inspired Bistro” in Athens where he introduced novel beef cuts to the Greek dining scene and revived the ancient art of dry-aging. His unique brand of comfort food, innovative techniques and impeccable hospitality, alongside his commitment to limiting waste, ethical sourcing and social responsibility, has earned him both critical acclaim and commercial success, with his latest project, Birdman Japanese Pub + Grill, further brandishing his reputation while introducing Athenians to “yakitori-ya” culture. We recently caught up with Ari to ask him about his proudest endeavours, traveling habits and latest discoveries
How would you define yourself in three words?
Persistent, adaptive, pragmatist.
A project/initiative you’re most proud of?
EMBRACE: a not-for-profit initiative that I started 5 years ago that entails preparing meals on a daily basis for those in need, regardless age, ethnicity and gender, within the Athenian region. This initiative is self-funded and occasionally supported by Guest Chef Events at Vezene and Birdman, each time welcoming interesting culinary personalities from around the globe whose humble cooking ethos focuses on sincerity and sustainability.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
It’s a mix of 3 factors: The constant discovery of my Ionian heritage whose roots are part Greek and part Italian, spending my 20’s in America getting to know its multi ethnic food culture, and last but not least my constant travels throughout the world in search of farms to prepare family meals and share them with good friends.
Which colours are you currently enamoured of?
As Cerrone and Belle Époque say: Black is black. My car is black, my cast iron skillets are black, my Birdman Tee’s are black, and my son’s favorite color is black.
A timeless design piece you own?
A pair of purple Cassina Utrecht armchairs.
What item in your closet do you wear the most?
Off duty my Alexander McQueen cufflinks and on duty my butcher aprons.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?
The most adventurous and greatest learning experience was being by the side of my wife for the 17hrs it took her to give birth to our son! It was an amazing experience that made me come to terms with the fact that men are inferior species.
What do you miss most when travelling?
Travelling is integral to my monthly routine, I pursue it. Therefore I don’t miss anything. I only miss something when I am having a shitty time.
Which city would you chose to live in if you had to move?
London. Love the British countryside and only 90 min away from Paris through the St Pancras train station.
What souvenirs would you bring back home?
I never bring back souvenirs, only real time usage items. Therefore my suitcase is always full of spices, vinegars, ceramics and of course limited edition sneakers.
Your latest discovery?
I am currently learning more about ceramics, types of clay and ashes.
Who is your favourite hero or heroine in fiction?
I am more excited with modern day heroes who actually commit their life to assisting others.
What quote do you live by?
Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.
What is your guilty pleasure?
When it comes to clothing, limited edition Sneakers, when it comes to accesories, Sunglasses: Thom Browne, Matsuda, Cutler+Cross, Jean Marie Mage. When it comes to food: Hot Fudge Sundaes from Serendipity in New York, and Yakitori skewers from Torien in NYC, and yes, a slab of Shropshire Blue cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy.
What is your most treasured possession?
Family and my loved ones and the available time I have to spend with them. Time is the highest non-material good in life. It cannot be bought, transferred, or reversed. So choose carefully how you use it.