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Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Nikola Karvelas of NISI in the Theatre District

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Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Nikola Karvelas of NISI in the Theatre District

Nikola Karvelas is a Greek chef based in New York. He found his passion for food very early and went on experimenting, which earned him the bronze medal of Young Chef's Contest in Cyprus in 1999. He gained fame in the Greek cookery industry working at some of the top professional kitchens in Athens alongside the brightest culinary stars of the country.

The year 2009 marked his career as he relocated to Istanbul to overtake the city's high-society eating destination Michelin Star "Varoulko", successfully combining the highly contrasting European and Asian eating traditions in the crossroads of the two continents.

Karvelas remained devoted to his South European origin by making use of and promoting Mediterranean food products, renowned for their outstanding quality and taste. He is an active member of Enterprise Greece, the country's state association for foreign trade. After having created the striking restaurant concept of "Anassa Taverna" in downtown Manhattan, Nikola continued raising the international profile of Mediterranean cooking as a partner executive chef and consultant in Florida, Los Angeles, and Istanbul. Today, he is back in Manhattan, responsible for the neoteric refining of Greek and Mediterranean recipes at Nisi. had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Karvelas about his career and Nisi.

What was your earlier interest in cooking?

I remember when I was 8. Flavors and smells from home, mom and grandma cooking, me tasting everything I could imagine. Spices, everything I can feel with my hands and taste with all my senses.

Who were some of your career mentors?

My mother and grandmother. I could not have accomplished any of this without their guidance and support throughout my career. I became a chef because of these two important women in my life.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

French and Greek for sure. French because it is a very creative and inventive style of cooking. You can basically follow some rules but then you are free to reinvent everything. Greek because of its history and influence of centuries of civilizations co-existing in the Mediterranean region. In every dish, there is history and flavors that were created many, many years ago.

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

I am passionate about cooking, I am brave and I believe I have a great sense of balance. I love what I do. I appreciate and love all the ingredients I can cook. Don't be a chef if you don't love it.

What is your favorite meal?

I am in love with the seafood pastitsio, and risotto with sea urchin

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

Nisi is our new home where Mediterranean food is the main protagonist. It is a concept where we would like to transport you to a Mediterranean island but from the heart of New York City. I see this as a good challenge and an opportunity to position Mediterranean food as a healthy but fascinating cuisine for food connoisseurs. We created Nisi to promote new and exciting dishes to the American customer.

Nisi is located at 250 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036. For more information, please visit or call 646.669.8103. For general inquiries and private events, visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Executive Chef Nikola Karvelas and Nisi

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