by Aria Socratous
In Greek mythology Avra is the Goddess of the breezes and thus Avra Madison aptly named. The Greek cuisine and restaurant’s inspired decor will invoke warm Mediterranean nights cooled by Avra’s gentle sea breezes. Avra Madison is an authentic bi-level Greek restaurant located just steps from central park which offers traditional Greek cuisine with emphasis on succulent seafood dishes.
Avra Madison’s accredited and renowned Executive Chef Ralph Scamardella talked to The National Herald about his successful career in the culinary world.
TNH: How did you decide to become a chef?
It’s a long story but the truth is that I always enjoyed being in the kitchen. I come from an Italian backround and at a young age having an ethnic back round like that food was very important and something that I really enjoyed. The gratification of making something and serving it, being able to work with your hands, to work physical and create something it is really enjoyable.
TNH: What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
I read as much as I can, I go to as many restaurants as I possibly can. When a place opens and is new, I go and I check it out, I keep up with pretty much everything is going on, I read a lot of books and magazines. I am trying not to be a copy cat but to learn what people are doing, I learn new techniques and I experiment myself.
THN: What do you do to insure the quality of your ingredients?
First you have to make sure you taste everything you see every day. The supplies, the stuff, the products we bring every day, I taste and I test. We also have very good suppliers, a very good list of people who are very reliable. We have a lot of on-hand chefs who taste everything to make sure that when the food is going out to customers, it’s good. We also have the highest level of products.
THN: What are the signature dishes that you recommend and why?
The classic dishes are the Avra chips which are the traditional crispy zucchini and eggplant chips with tzatziki. Even though is fried, it’s very light, it’s a classic dish and the way we execute it, is unique. I really like some of the plain grilled fish. Sometimes people expect overdone food and this is the beauty of this concept, the beauty of the Greek food. For example, fagkri, which is a Mediterranean snapper, grilled with light seasoned sea salt and olive oil. It’s something that I really enjoy. The Greek salad is also a dish that the clients are asking for. It’s a very simple dish, but very tasty. We use great tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, Greek olive oil
TNH: What are the traits that distinguish Avra Madison restaurant that make it high quality restaurant?
I think what makes the restaurant unique are the products we use, always fresh and very expensive. People will always pay for quality because quality makes the difference. The restaurant is always very busy, so none of the ingredients is old and sitting around.
TNH. What is the secret of being a good chef?
I think the secret of being really good on something is really loving it. A good chef should be super creative, dedicated, to work hard, you have to love what you do, you have to be able to put the effort and time to make that happen. You have to be able to explore your creativity and make the guests have a great experience.
TNH.How easy is for a chef to manage a whole kitchen by yourself because being a chef doesn’t mean that you are responsible only for the food.
RS.You can’t do everything by yourself. It’s a teamwork. We have a team, sous chefs who go around to make sure that the recipes are followed, that the products are right, the purchasing is done correct. There is a team of executives that are top of everything in order to make sure that everyone is following the direction is given.
TNH. Can you name three things that are considered to be your strengths?
My biggest strength is my organization skills, my ability to allow other people to express themselves and my patience. You have to be really patient when you are a chef, especially in teaching other people. Everything is in fast paced
The article was published today on Food and Wine Section of The National Herald