Chef Spotlight: Stathis Antonakopoulos of CARNEGIE DINER & CAFE Now Open in Midtown
Stathis Antonakopoulos is Carnegie Diner & Cafe's Executive Chef and Culinary Director. Stathis has a long history in the hospitality industry, which began at the age of 18 when he began working at his grandfather's hotel & restaurant in his native country, Greece. He went on to become the Director of Operations at Kellari, which has locations in Midtown West and Washington DC, and then opened his own restaurant, STIX, in 2012. In addition to his position at Carnegie Diner & Cafe, he is also the Director of Operation of Foodworks Plus, a hospitality marketing and management company, in addition to owning his own catering business.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Stathis about his career and Carnegie Diner & Cafe.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
Back home in Greece I was cooking with my grandmother in her 300-seat restaurant and that's where I got the foundation for my love of cooking.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I had a lot of career mentors but the most inspiring was Executive Chef Gregory Zapantis. He showed me how NYC works and how to get inspired by the ingredients and the people that we serve.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I love Classic American cuisine. There's nothing like a great burger, BLT chicken sandwich, or a Pastrami on Rye, but everything circles back to my Mediterranean heritage and Hellenic Cuisine. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, feta cheese and oregano are some of my key ingredients.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
I love the simplicity and the complexity of a dish. For example, a burger is just ground beef on a bun, but in reality it's a lot more. We source our burger meat from Vermont Country Farm. It's Certified Organic with (85%-15% lean meat) and always delivered fresh and vacuumed sealed ready to be cooked. Our buns come from two local bakeries, Hudson Bread and Elis Bakery, using brioche and a choice of Gluten free. Our fries are freshly made and hand cut and our homemade sauce is our secret ingredient that makes it unique.
What is your favorite meal or meals?
I love our pancakes and our salads, but at Carnegie Diner & Café, the Lobster Mac and Cheese is one of my favorites.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Our restaurant is inspired by the iconic Carnegie Hall across the street. The idea was to create a spot that paid tribute to all of music's legends that played there and the diner was always the place to eat before or after a performance. We thrive to serve comfort food with a twist. We love to serve our guests the best ingredients are home cooked.
Carnegie Diner & Cafe is located at 205 West 57th Street (at the corner of 7th Avenue), New York, NY 10019. It is in the heart of Midtown and very close to entertainment options. For more information, menus, and hours of operation visit their web site at https://www.carnegiediner.com/ or call 212.664.1001.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Carnegie Diner