July 6, 2018 By Tara Law
The executive chef from Astoria restaurant Akrotiri won a face-off with other talented chefs on Food Network show “Chopped.”
Nicholas Poulmentis, the 42-year-old head chef at new Greek restaurant Akrotiri at 29-20 30th Ave, impressed a panel of judges— including Martha Stewart— with his quick thinking and creative food on an episode of “Chopped” that aired Tuesday.
Poulmentis was required to craft three courses using a wide variety of ingredients, including lamb sirloin, nori and porgy.
The ingredient that made Poulmentis the most nervous, he said, was corn dogs crusted with french fries— he’d never even tasted them before, he said.
At Akrotiri, Poulmentis sticks to fare that is both much lighter and closer to Poulmentis’ earlier life on the Greek island of Kythira. One of his specialties is octopus, he said.
“I use ingredients from all over Greece— from the islands, from the mountains,” said Poulmentis.
Poulmentis was born in Manhattan to Greek immigrants, but his family returned to Greece soon after he was born.
Poulmentis trained as a chef in Greece and at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and helped to run his family’s hotel on the island.
The experience was the foundation in Poulmentis’ ethos as a chef. He developed a deep knowledge about Greek ingredients, even growing his own tea and making his own olive oil.
A few years after the financial crisis struck Greece, however, Poulmentis decided he needed to find a way to support his family. He moved to Astoria in 2012.
Poulmentis said that restarting his career in New York as a 37-year-old was difficult. His father died shortly after Poulentis moved to the city, but Poulentis was unable to afford the cost of plane tickets to attend his funeral.
In the years since, Poulmentis’ fortunes have been on the rise. He served President Barack Obama dinner at the White House in 2013, and helped to open Akrotiri in Astoria this year.
Now that he has conquered “Chopped,” Poulmentis plans to use the $10,000 prize money to take a trip and visit his father’s grave.
Poulmentis said that he dedicated his “Chopped” win to his father and to the restaurant.
To explain his victory, Poulmentis said, “I had God on my side, and I work hard.”