Regarded as the premier purveyor of authentic Greek cuisine, Jim Botsacos, Executive Chef and Partner of New York City’s noted Molyvos Restaurant, creates the freshest, most inventive dishes this side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Recipient of one of the coveted 3-star reviews from the New York times shortly after the restaurant opened and named “Best in America,” by Esquire Magazine, Jim calls upon his rich cultural history and love of bold flavors to create unique dishes that pay homage to his Greek-Italian roots.
Always experimenting, Jim blends his classically trained expertise from Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island with his passion for good food to produce innovative combinations without diminishing centuries’ old Greek authenticity. One of today’s hottest chefs with a background that’s as impressive as it is ecelectic, Jim Botsaco’s handiwork offers fork-fulls of paradise straight from the Greek Isles.
In the spirit of family and sharing, Jim bestows some of his best cooking secrets as a chef expert with with Behind the Burner, your source for tips and tricks from culinary masters, and I was fortunate enough to chat with him about everything from healthy eating to vegetarian specialties.
Name: Chef Jim Botsacos
Restaurant: Molyvos Restaurant
Your favorite dish: Anything my grandmother makes.
One ingredient you can’t live without: Garlic
Your healthy food choice: Braised Wild Greens with Lemon and Olive Oil
Your guilty pleasure: Anything with chocolate or peanut butter
Your desire to become a chef came at a very young age. Can you share with us what sparked that desire so early?
Coming from a Greek–American/Italian-American background food was the center of our existence, and a big part of my life even at a very young age. So, I was exposed to different flavors and dishes that I wanted to create myself.
What is your signature dish?
At Molyvos, it would be the grilled baby octopus. You can’t do Greek without octopus!
How has your diverse ethnic background influenced your cuisine?
I have always had a love for anything Mediterranean, and they say you crave the food of your ancestors, I find myself wanting to put tomato sauce or feta cheese on everything.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to cooking?
Fresh ingredients and where they come from, trying to support the local farmer whenever possible.
Do you incorporate any green cooking practices or organic ingredients into your dishes?
We try to choose organic whenever possible or when the opportunity presents itself.
What is your food philosophy?
Stay true to the ingredient. If I’m eating tomato, I want to know that I’m eating a tomato; I’m not looking to change its composition in anyway.
How would you advise someone who wanted to cook healthy without sacrificing flavor?
For cooking healthy, I find that a combination of grains and legumes with some greens and lean protein is a great way to eat healthy while still being flavorful. Try substituting yogurt and serve it instead of butter to help curb the craving for added fats. Also, when cooking greens, save the cooking liquid and use it as part of the dish to retain all the nutrients. It also gives a fuller flavor to the dish.
What is your best cooking tip for the home cooking enthusiast?
I have children, so I recommend shopping and trying to organize your meals for the week. This way, you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the market, giving you have more time to concentrate on the actual cooking.
Tell us a little more about your restaurant, Molyvos, and how you plan your menu.
Part of the menu is definitely seasonal, but people expect to see certain classics on the menu as well, such as moussaka, Greek salad, and so on. We also have a great whole fish selection that is just simply grilled. We have a private fish buyer who hand selects the fish. We also blend the menu in a way that you have an opportunity to have a Greek classic with something that is more modern in its approach or something that is Greek inspired.
What Greek specialties would you recommend for your vegetarian diners?
The vegetable dolmades, the Greek salad (minus the cheese if you’re vegan), and we also have many others. They are all marked on the menu with an asterisk.
What dining trends have you been observing lately?
I really don’t pay attention to the trends and never really vary from my style. I just try to stay in touch but don’t follow the pack. Good food is always in style!
What do you like most about being a chef owner? What has been your greatest success and biggest challenge to date?
What I would count as one of my greatest successes would be achieving 3 stars in the NY Times before I was 30 years old, along with the longevity of Molyvos. One of the biggest challenges has always been trying to find good staff.
What visions do you have for your culinary future?
I would like to run multiple units and continue to pioneer Greek Food.
When you’re not cooking, what are you doing?
Easily spending time with my wife Maria, and my two children, Sofia and Dimitri.
It’s refreshing to meet a chef who stays true to classic cooking techniques where flavor is the showcase over a trendy execution. And his many accolades are testament to his commitment to bringing the truest representation of Greek fare to his patrons. To learn more about Jim, and access his coveted recipes for Scallop Marinato and Spinach Rice & Cheese Keftedes, visit Behind the Burner, where you can also find tips and tricks from other master chefs. You can also watch Jim in action in a video about pairing wine with Greek cuisine.
Whether you want to create 5-star meals at home or have a sneak peek behind the scenes at today’s top chefs and restaurants, Behind the Burner gives you a VIP pass to the culinary world. And Eat. Drink. Better. readers can sign up to receive special discounts and membership priveleges on professional tools and ingredients for putting your newfound knowledge to the test.