Simi Estiatorio, the much-anticipated Greek dining destination set to open in downtown Austin this coming spring, announced the hire of Greek native Yanni Tobas to lead their culinary team as Executive Chef. Chef Tobas comes to Simi from his most recent role as personal chef to such notable luminaries as Ariana Huffington and Sarah Jessica Parker.
“Yanni intrinsically understands and is passionate about Greek flavors and preparations,” says Partner Georgios Theodosiou. “I am thrilled that the stars aligned, and he can lead our team at Simi.”
Chef Tobas will bring the traditional Greek Seafood dishes and desserts he learned in Greece and perfected during his culinary training to the Simi menu.
“Cultural authenticity of food is important to me as a chef and a native Greek,” said Tobas. “I will never change any components of a traditional Greek dish to fit a food fad or diet. There's a reason these dishes have lasted for thousands of years,” Tobas adds.
Chef Tobas grew up on his father's organic farm in a small village in Astakos located on the mainland of Greece. It was there that he learned the basics of traditional Greek cooking from his grandmother. Local fresh produce, meat and seafood were plentiful, and the preparations were simple and delicious. Favorite childhood memories of warm goat’s milk and freshly baked bread with newly churned butter and sea salt are tastes that set the stage for his love of food.
When he was 18, Tobas went to school to learn the shipping business. His Uncle George worked for Greek Shipping Magnate Aristotle Onassis as a chef, and it seemed like a good path for a smart young Greek man to pursue. It was evident though that Yanni was more interested in working with his Uncle in the kitchen than in the shipping business. After completing shipping school and years of working with his Uncle George and learning the ropes of the kitchen, he took the money he had earned and left Greece to pursue his dream. He moved to London to attend culinary school at the Chef Academy of London where he completed a two-year program to become a professional chef.
In 2012, Yanni headed to New York for what was to be a short vacation, but soon became a permanent stay after falling in love with the city and finding a job. Although his first job in the city was a more traditional role as a chef in a restaurant setting, it was not long before his career would take a turn and lead him towards entrepreneurship and fame.
His luck began when a blonde woman approached him in a store in Soho after overhearing him speaking to a friend on the phone in Greek and asked him, “Are you Greek?” He said he was, and the lady asked what he did for a living. “I am a chef,” replied Tobas, and gave her his contact information. She called back the next day and asked him to prepare five authentic Greek dishes for her to try. That lady was Arianna Huffington.
After that, Arianna called him three to four times a week to cook meals for she and her often high-profile guests; The guests often wanted to meet the chef who created this traditional Greek Cuisine and, with introductions, Tobas’ clientele began to grow. His grass-roots success allowed him to stop working at restaurants and become a private chef. In addition to working for Arianna Huffington, Yanni’s list of private clients quickly grew to include a long list of notable clients including the aforementioned Sarah Jessica Parker, Sofia Vergara, and Jessica Lange.
While cooking for a party co-hosted by Arianna Huffington and Natalie Massenet (founder of Net-A-Porter) at the Tribeca Film Fest in 2015, Yanni was introduced to George Theodosiou. George asked to meet the chef who prepared the food for the event when he noticed it was authentically Greek. After the introduction was made, the two had a small discussion, and George told Yanni, “One day, we are going to work together.” This idea turned into prophecy for, as soon as the business foundation for a new Greek concept restaurant was in place, George contacted Yanni to make him an offer he could not refuse. After accepting the proposal, Yanni Tobas moved, bringing his Greek roots to the southwestern United States as the executive chef of Simi Estiatorio set to open in Austin, Texas in early 2020.
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