Executive Chef - Axia Taverna
Grand Tasting, Saturday March 29, 2014
While many chefs claim that their inspiration came from tugging on mom’s apron in the kitchen as a youngster, Chef Alex Gorant’s journey to the profession took a completely different route. “My mother, the Brooklyn-born child of Greek immigrants, did not enjoy cooking or have exotic tastes in food,” he says. “I was raised on spaghetti with jarred sauce and chicken marinated in Good Seasons salad dressing.”
It was Gorant’s uncle, who provided Alex with a summer job bussing tables at his New Jersey restaurant The Rusty Nail, which ultimately led to his enrollment in the Hospitality program at Widener University. Following graduation, Gorant felt he should expand his knowledge of restaurant management with some experience on the line. Once exposed to new ingredients, flavors and the French style of cooking at Esty Street, Gorant knew his future was in the kitchen, not in the front-of-house.
Gorant enrolled in New York City’s French Culinary Institute, and upon completion began a tour of duty in some of New York’s finest kitchens, beginning at Windows on the World and moving to Le Bernardin, Artisanal and Town before being named Executive Chef at Liberty House in 2003.
Surprisingly, Axia is Gorant’s first effort at creating a Greek menu. Despite his family’s heritage, Gorant ate very little Greek food at home, so he turned his attention to French technique. In order to develop Axia’s menu, Gorant traveled to Greece to study classical Greek cooking with noted food critic and author Diane Kochilas (who acts as his consultant in greek classics) both preparing and refining recipes in her home as well as in several of Athens’ finest professional kitchens. The result is Gorant’s personal interpretation of approachable and flavorful Greek cuisine that draws from both the ancient and modern.
Unimpeded by strict convention or recipe with Axia, Gorant is free to experiment with sauces, presentation and ingredients, and the result is a bill of fare that truly reflects the essence of Greek food but also reminds that a chef’s imagination is an important as any ingredient on the plate.