5 minutes with… John Skotidas

Aegean-inspired restaurant Hovarda has announced John Skotidas as its new executive chef. Brummell talks to him about what we can now anticipate from the Soho eatery

Food and Drink 27 Nov 2023

John Skotidas

What can diners expect from Hovarda?

Guests can expect a warm and inviting ambience that creates a cosy and atmospheric dining experience in front of our open kitchen. Our menu showcases traditional Greek cuisine with Turkish culinary influences in a modern way. We work with local British and Greek products to create unique flavours.

What inspired you to become executive chef at Hovarda?

I remember my visit to Hovarda on the second day of its opening. This Greek/Turkish-inspired restaurant immediately caught my attention with its deep-rooted traditions and the potential of flavours that these countries have to offer. The concept of Hovarda, with its character and identity in a beautiful venue and beautiful bar, always stuck in my mind as being that of an established and exceptional restaurant.

It was quite unexpected when, after all these years, an offer landed on my table to take over the menu of Hovarda. I met the managing director, Hus Vedat, and the rest of the team. Everything became clear to me and I knew that jumping into the kitchen and doing what I do best was the right choice.

Hovarda incorporates Asian, South American, Greek, and Turkish influences into its dishes.
Hovarda incorporates Asian, South American, Greek, and Turkish influences into its dishes.

What influences have gone into Hovarda’s newly relaunched menu?

I have had the privilege of working with Greek cuisine for many years, in many different ways, and incorporating Asian and South American influences. Being of mixed nationalities, I’ve always been inspired by this type of cuisine. Now I have an exciting opportunity to create dishes that combine Greek cuisine with Turkish influences. I admire Turkish cuisine a lot and it has many similarities with Greek cuisine. This new culinary path has sparked my creativity and given me an exciting challenge.

Is there a new signature dish at Hovarda that customers must try?

When I joined, my intention was to change every dish and establish my own culinary identity. However, there was one dish that I couldn’t bring myself to remove: the feta kataifi with truffle honey and basil. It has become a true signature of Hovarda, and although I didn’t create it myself, I am delighted to acknowledge its perfection.

Hovarda has an extensive cocktail menu
Hovarda has an extensive cocktail menu

What do you wish Londoners knew more about Greek and South American cuisine?

Greek cuisine has gained significant recognition in recent years. However, there are so many traditional dishes from various regions of Greece. The country produces a wide range of exceptional products that have the potential to be introduced to the world. As young chefs, it’s our duty to introduce the large range of traditional dishes and culinary varieties that our country has to offer. From stews and savoury pies to flavourful fish stews, soups, salads, street food and desserts, the traditional culinary range of Greece is huge. I would like to see more different traditional recipes on menus apart from the classics.

Many South American countries have their own unique cuisines that share similarities. It’s like a never-ending journey of flavours, cultures, traditions, ingredients and recipes. What I find important in South American cuisine is its authenticity. Every country has something special to offer and the flavours truly come alive through authentic techniques and local ingredients. While there are now imported products available, when you visit South American countries you see dishes made from scratch. I believe in recognising the authenticity and origins of every dish to appreciate the culinary traditions of South America. I would like to see more authentic cooking and ingredients, as that way we will have more authentic flavours.

Who is your role model and how have they influenced your work?

I constantly ask myself who is my favourite chef in the world, and I think of worldwide big names. But the truth is, to me personally, there is no better chef than Alexandros Charalambopoulos. He is my best example of an amazing person with culinary skills, creativity, management and leadership. He sticks to what he loves and that is Greek cuisine to the bone! Because of him, I love this job. He has helped me in many ways to find my path as a chef.

Hovarda works with local British and Greek products to create unique flavours
Hovarda works with local British and Greek products to create unique flavours

During your career, have you ever experienced doubt or uncertainty in your abilities? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yes, it is a natural part of the growth process in any craft. In order to create great dishes, become a skilled leader or manager and develop the right concept, it is normal to make mistakes. Through these mistakes and the experience of preparing subpar dishes, one learns and grows. People may doubt your abilities and criticise your food as a chef. At times, you may even question your own capabilities, wondering if you are good enough.

To overcome these challenges, doubt and criticism play a role in becoming better, continuously striving to improve and letting go of the ego that assumes you know everything and are already great. It is through these ups and downs in my career that I have gained the confidence I now have in my abilities as a chef.

What one ingredient can you not live without?

So many… but I’ll go with eggs. Any time of the day, every day.

What’s next for John Skotidas?

My focus now is on Hovarda and Abra Ovata in Athens, Greece. I want to make these restaurants reach the best version of themselves and whatever comes next will come at the right time. For now, I’m creating new dishes with my amazing team, executing these at our best and providing a great dining experience for our guests – learning, progressing and building.