Avli on the Park Head Chef Nikolaos Kapernaros

Avli on the Park Head Chef Nikolaos Kapernaros

This week we are thrilled to share an interview with Chef Kapernaros, the award-winning chef of the highly anticipated Avli on The Park in Lakeshore East which will offer guests a truly unique Mediterranean focused fine-dining experience. Check out our interview with Chef Kapernaros as he shares more about the new restaurant, his experience and what delicious dishes guests can look forward to enjoying!

First off, congrats on the grand opening of Avli on The Park this week. We cannot wait to visit! Can you tell us about your own background and experience as a chef?

Chef: My passion for cooking started about 22 years ago. My base was always Greece, but I have worked in Holland, Germany, France and Italy. I’ve always been fascinated by the cultures and of course the cuisines. Most of my experience has been in 5-star resorts and restaurants in mainland Greece and the Greek Islands. I had the honor to work as an instructor at the Culinary Institute of Greece and to share my knowledge and passion with the new generation of chefs.

What inspired you to become a chef?

Chef:  It was a chance encounter! I was enrolled in college heading down a different path and after speaking with friends, I decided to give it a try. After a few courses, I was hooked! I have been cooking ever since.

Tell us a bit about what diners can expect to see and feel when they visit?

Chef: Guests should prepare to be transported to the gorgeous seaside villages lining the Greek coast. Our menu will reflect Greece’s bold and diverse flavors: majestic mountains, clear blue sea, and enchanting villages. Nestled in the lush green space just east of Michigan Avenue and north of Millennium Park, Avli in Lakeshore East will be an airy, comfortable but elegant, 13,000 square-foot modern Greek taverna. Features include cozy two-sided stone fireplaces, a colossal U-shaped bar, and breathtaking views of Lakeshore East Park from sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows. A spacious outdoor roof deck with heated cabanas will afford diners with luxurious year-round comfort.

Can you tell us about how you source menu ingredients and your cooking philosophy? 

Chef: All ingredients are hand-selected. Preparation is loving and meticulous. Each dish is shared with Avli’s spirit of philoxenia (a welcoming of strangers and an eagerness to show hospitality); meraki (putting the best of one’s self into cooking and work); and kefi (living life joyfully).

What are some of your favorite menu items?

Chef: Shrimp Mikrolimano, sautéed shrimp prepared in fresh tomato sauce, herbs, and smoked feta over cauliflower puree. A Kapernaros signature dish, the feta’s bold smoked flavor perfectly balances with the cauliflower puree.

Shrimp Mikrolimano created by Head Chef of Avli on the Park, Nikolaos Kapernaros

Shrimp Mikrolimano at Avli on the Park

A family favorite served by my mother and grandmother during summers in Lakonia, Greece, Octopus Stifado is a stew of octopus, pearl onions, fresh tomato, and rosemary glazed with red wine, served with Greek fava and oven roasted beets.

Octopus Stifado created by Head Chef of Avli on the Park, Nikolaos Kapernaros

Octopus Stifado at Avli on the Park

Lavraki Sofregada reminds me of times spent at beloved seaside taverns, watching as the sun set over Piraeus, the city where I was raised. Here, lavraki (Mediterranean seabass) is sautéed with wild greens, black-eyed peas, fresh tomato, and herbs, topped with a raw Mediterranean garnish of tomato, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. (SEE PHOTO)

Lavraki Sofregada created by Head Chef of Avli on the Park, Nikolaos Kapernaros

Lavraki Sofregada at Avli on the Park

What are you most excited about when Avli on The Park opens in Chicago?

Chef:  We have been working hard to create authentic Greek flavored, contemporary dishes based on the Mediterranean diet and are excited to present our menu to our guests. We’re proud to use Greek extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, fresh fish and seafood, and traditional favorites in many of our dishes. The best part of opening in the spring is that our guests can enjoy al fresco dining on our spacious rooftop overlooking the park!

What inspires you most when creating and cooking new recipes?

Chef: I always have our guests in mind and my goal is to exceed their culinary expectations. They have likely tried Greek food in the past, but we have created new recipes to rock their palates.

Thanks so much for talking with us! We look forward to visiting the restaurant soon. Anything you’d like to add?

Chef: My team and I would like to invite our guests on a journey to the revival of Greek cuisine. Our passion and experience in culinary art will be present in every bite. We look forward to welcoming you to our new culinary adventure!

Avli on The Park is just steps away from The Residences at The St. Regis Chicago.  To learn more about how you can become a resident at Chicago’s best address, please inquire with The Residences at The St. Regis Chicago here.