For our latest ECX Food spotlight, we will be featuring head chef David Tsirekas and the fascinating 1821, a grand, historical-epic Greek venue right in the heart of Sydney.
1821 originated from Jim Kospetas’ dream to create a historic Greek venue in Sydney that offers a conceptualised representation of its history. Although several Greek restaurants existed in Sydney and Melbourne, he wanted to create a venue that would be an embodiment of Greek history itself.
“Jim Kospetas’ idea for this venue was to showcase all things Greek,” said Chef Tsirekas, “there was already a lot of Greek restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, but he wanted to create a venue that really champions the Greek values”. The name 1821 is a reference to the year that the Greeks waged its War of Independence against the Ottoman empire. While the hardship of starting a restaurant cannot be compared to a war, the tenacity shown by Tsirekas and Kospetas is a true representation of the spirit of their ancestors. There were numerous uphill battles faced by the duo during the launch period that lasted nearly 2 years, but in the process they were also able to create an unified development process.
After the war, the number 1821 became a symbol of unity for the revolution. A significant moment where everyone helped each other out. This is the way 1821 was designed and built from the beginning. The development for the venue was not only a result of everyone’s combined efforts, but also the importance of establishing Greek authenticity in its production. It was a true Greek collaboration, from the design of the venue by Athens based designer Dimitris Economou, to the wine menu and the suppliers of its bar and kitchen.
Deep inside 1821, is their atmospheric and unique bar named Bar Odessa. The bar is another historical reference to the time of the Greek revolution. “Odessa was where the Greeks plotted the revolution,” says Chef Tsirekas. The stylised secret bunker bar lies in the basement of 1821 and creates a Greek meets Russian feel. Its spy-like features create a sense of mystery that offers guest intimacy and privacy in a unique Greek setting. “We really want to create the feeling that represents our dedication to historical elements,” explained Chef Tsirekas.
The development process for 1821 was definitely challenging but Chef Tsirekas himself embarked on a personal journey to get to where he is. As a swimming and water polo coach, he would take casual jobs in hospitality where he picked up the foundation of his skills. Tsirekas officially started his career as a head chef when he headed up the cult classic Perama in Petersham after his sister decided to sell her share of the business.
It was at Perama that he honed his cooking style and the restaurant soon became a cult hit for traditional Greek Food lovers. After running it until 2011, Chef Tsirekas decided to take up an opportunity to work with Westfield by opening up Xanthi and running it for three years. David described the Westfield experience as a journey of ups and downs, with Perama receiving a SMH Good Food Guide hat each year. Soon after, he was offered the position of head chef from Jim Kospetas for 1821. “Jim needed a chef that would align with the experience 1821 was offering,” said Tsirekas, “So he called me and offered me the opportunity to head up the team at 1821.”
Throughout his entire cooking career, Chef Tsirekas had extensively studied and researched Greek history and this would become the main inspiration for the creation of his menu. Chef Tsirekas describes his culinary style as very much traditional and refined. “But this has certainly evolved into a cleaner palette,” explained Chef Tsirekas.
His cooking is very much an embodiment of Greek history through the ages, a kind of timeline cooking that spans across Greek’s history, which Tsirekas refers to as a “century of concepts in cuisine”. Even before opening up 1821, his venue Xanthi had a slight Turkish feel to it since Greek was part of the Ottoman Empire before the revolution. This also aligned with Tsirekas’ menu in Xanthi to create a much more experimental menu that wasn’t your typical Greek restaurant. But now Tsirekas makes the next transition in 1821, like in history itself, reverting back to the traditional styles of Greek food.
Although traditional in its flavour, 1821’s dishes is modern with its aesthetics. “I try to honor the flavours and cooking, it may not look traditional but once you eat it, the taste hits home like nostalgia”. When asked about the style Greek food represents, Chef Tsirekas describes it as a food that produces a comfortable feeling with a sense of home.
“To me I think Greek food is meant to be warm, comforting with a sense of tradition and family.” To sum up, his approach when creating new dishes from the Greek theme he called his style “polished rustic”.
Journo for ECX Magazine