Welcome to Chef Reveals, a new feature to Eater Philly and @eater_philly on Instagram, in which we display the day-to-day essentials of the city's top chefs — all shot from above by the very talented TommyBaboon. This week, chef Bobby Saritsoglou of Opa shows us his most prized possessions.
[photo by @tommybaboon] @Chef_Bobby_Saritsoglou's prized possessions found in @opaphiladelphia's kitchen.
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Chef Bobby Saritsoglou is close to celebrating his first year at Opa, and oh, what a year it's been. Since its conception in 2011, George and Vasiliki Tsiouris's modern Greek restaurant in Midtown Village has always done a stand-up job rebranding the cuisine in Philadelphia, teaching the masses about the food often typecast as just foil-lined pita sandwiches and spinach pies. But it wasn't until Saritsoglou arrived that the restaurant realized its full potential. Greek-by-blood, the impeccably mustachioed chef tapped into an education he received from the many kitchens of his past, from childhood to Michelin-starred Varoulko, and designed a menu that ranks at the top of Philly's Mediterranean scene. A Greek-revival is among us, and we owe it all to Saritsoglou.
Explained in clockwise order from the picture above (start top left):
Cast iron skillets: Taxidermist-on-the-side and collector of cast iron kitchenware, Saritsoglou claims to having an affinity for saving and preserving. "I find them all rusty and beat up, and I fix them."
Lemons: whether preserved (for sweetness) or fresh (for acid), lemons are a big part of Greek cuisine. Find them in dressings, sautées, sauces and desserts.
Olive oil: "I get excited about olive oil." Saritsoglou's olive oil "guy" imports bottles from Greece to New York, and brings him bottles not available anywhere in Philly. He uses them to brush onto dough, drizzle over meat, marinate, emulsify, you name it. "In Greek cooking, it's the most important thing. Greeks consume more olive oil than any other country in the world."
Greek honey: From Crete, "it's the most delicious honey I've ever tasted. The bees must eat well over there."
Spices: the simplicity about Greek cuisine lends itself to having a light hand when it comes to spices. According to Saritsoglou, spices were cultivated in Greece for trade purposes more so than anything else, but the spices he chose here are common to the cuisine, used delicately for just a bit of accent or pop.
From top right, down:
- Bay Leaf
- Cumin seed
- Fennel seed
- Saffron (he has a few saffron farmers in the family)
- Cardamom (in the mortar and pestle)
- Peppercorns (in the mortar and pestle)
Wooden dowel: used to stretch Opa's homemade pita and filo dough.
Spoons: Not only is Saritsoglou a collector of cast irons, but he has a thing for spoons as well — his wife is a co-founder of Philly Aids Thrift; spoons and cast irons are easy to come by. He's had them for a long time, and uses them for plating, mixing, tasting, etc.
Pita: obviously a big part of Greek cuisine, all of Opa's pita is made in-house, every day, twice a day (for lunch, and then again for dinner). And it's all done by hand: mixed, molded, puffed in the oven, and fired over a grill.
Pastourma: an ancient preserved meat with varying forms found all over the Ottoman countries, it was originally made of camel meat (don't worry, it's done with beef at Opa). The beef is cured in cinnamon, coriander, paprika, ground oregano, cayenne, clove, juniper, fennel and anise, and then pressed and hung for up to four months. The result is an intensely aromatic, mouth-coating sliver of heavenly cured beef. Upon one of Saritsoglou's many visits to Greece (for both leisure and research), he visited Miran Pastourma, a famed pastourma and sujuk charcuterie market in Athens, and was inspired to recreate some of the magic at home.