Finn & Porter, recently opened at Alexandria’s Hilton Mark Center, has newer flavors to savor from chef Andreas Georgakopoulos.
As executive chef, he oversees everything related to that menu and the preparation of the food. “Surprisingly enough, I spend about 90 percent of my time cooking,” Georgakopoulos said. “The other 10 percent I spend managing.
“I work with my chef to select specials, which is very important because we change our menu daily,” said Georgakopoulos, who began his job in July.
Finn & Porter's menu is a blend of steak and seafood. Georgakopoulos is Greek and while his heritage and his early experience cooking in Greece influences his style, customers will not find traditional Greek dishes on Finn & Porter’s menu.
“We don’t want people to think of the menu as one type or the other,” Georgakopoulos said. “I guess you would call it fusion cuisine with some variations. Growing up in Greece, my mother used only the freshest ingredients — fresh vegetables, fresh cheese, fresh meat and, of course, fresh fish. This is still very important to me.
“Also, the simplicity of Greek cooking has, and continues to influence, the food that I prepare. The sauces that you will find here in the restaurant are very light and healthy, meant to enhance the flavors of the meat and fish and not hide them,” he said.
Georgakopoulos’ early days were spent in Athens and on the island of Lesbos, where his mother grew up as a child. “My grandfather cured fish when I was very young and [my family] made cheese,” he said. “My mother’s passion was cooking. I remember just finishing lunch and having her ask us what we wanted for lunch tomorrow. I think that’s where I got my love of cooking.”
HE BEGAN COOKING to entertain friends. “I cooked very simple things that my mother cooked and everyone liked them so well that I decided to become a chef.”
Being a chef in Greece meant becoming an apprentice. In 1995, Georgakopoulos came to the United States to go to culinary school in Southern California.
“It’s one of those things that the grass is always greener,” he said. “I believed that I needed to go to culinary school and always planned to finish my studies and return to Greece. I haven’t returned to Greece because I met so many wonderful people here and have stayed. However, the funny thing is that no one in any interview [for employment] has ever asked me where I went to culinary school.”
Georgakopoulos has won awards for a seafood restaurant in Pittsburgh and an Italian restaurant in Portland, Ore.
To highlight the use of fresh ingredients, Georgakopoulos prepared a plate of Sashimi and one of steak carpaccio. According to the web site, Japanguide.com, Sashimi is thinly sliced, raw seafood. Many different kinds of fish (and other types of seafood) are served raw in the Japanese cuisine. The fish has to be fresh. Sashimi can be eaten just as Sashimi or as nigiri zushi, in which case the Sashimi piece is put on top of a small ball of sushi rice.
Sashimi pieces are dipped into soya sauce before they are eaten. Depending on the kind of Sashimi, Wasabi or ground ginger is usually mixed into the soy sauce.
Georgakopoulos explained the Carpaccio, saying, “It is thinly sliced raw fillet with an endive salad in the middle and the beef has truffle oil on it.”
AS A SPECIAL feature, Georgakopoulos is planning wine dinners. “We are working with different vineyards on these events,” he said. “We invite the owner of a vineyard to bring several selections to us and we plan a menu with those wines in mind. Recently, we had one that about 50 people attended.”
The schedule for these dinners can be obtained at the restaurant. Prices for dinner entrées rage from $20 to $26 and, as promised, the selections are a blend of steak and seafood.