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Meet: Chef Damian Vasilevski of Ellenika
Delivering an array of luxurious Mediterranean flavours to the stunning Marina Pier, Ellenika serves modern Greek culinary opulence under the helm of a young visionary, Chef Damian Vasilevski.
Hey Paolo: What’s the inspiration behind Ellenika?
Behind everything is my family. This is the kind of food we cook at home; this is what we eat at home. This is the way we speak, the way we laugh, and the way we communicate. Ellenika is a big space and it can accommodate a lot of people. It’s family-oriented.
Hey Paolo: What’s your culinary journey like?
Back when I was 15 years old, one of my first kitchen jobs was working for an old restaurant here at Marina Pier. I really loved it! But I was still at school at that time.
When I finished school, I took over a 21-square-metre coffee shop in the city which was then closing down. From the day I opened that cafe, all I could ever dream of was to own a bigger restaurant and have a bigger team — and I’ve made it as my personal goal.
After the cafe stint, I’ve moved on and worked for another restaurant at the Marina Pier (which was already then named as Ellenika). I was initially working here as a staff for six months and at that point, the restaurant went up for sale. With my savings and the money I have under my belt, I ended up buying Ellenika.
We work hard for the things that we create here. I still want things to be special in our offerings and it doesn’t matter how big the space is, I still want a family-oriented service. I want to walk into a restaurant that I own and I know the people dining; I want to be able to talk to them.
Hey Paolo: Are you more a chef or an entrepreneur?
I used to work in this kitchen at Ellenika. I eventually came out of the kitchen to run a restaurant; but I also bought the restaurant to run a kitchen. From a person who started in the kitchen, I think everything should begin in the kitchen.
Being a restauranteur is a hard task. I started running Ellenika when I was 21 — who would want to listen to a 21-year-old? As I wanted to be a restaurant owner, I know I have to be hands-on with everything.
Hey Paolo: What are your greatest learnings?
I think of my restaurant as my little world. At the end of the day, people will follow the example that you lead. If you don’t take things seriously, people won’t also take things seriously. If you are not passionate enough, people around you won’t be passionate too.
If you love this industry, you will eventually find the people who feel the same way — and I have those people now in my team. It took a bit of time, but I have all of them now.
There aren’t many second chances in life. You achieve what you want to achieve. I knew I wanted to be a chef. I knew I wanted to cook. I wanted to make people happy.
Hey Paolo: What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
It’ll be the Katsiki Sto Fourno (16-hour slow roasted goat) served with potato garlic puree. I love goats and I find these animals very interesting. For one, a goat constantly travels the farthest compared to other animals (such as a pig) to just find the source of its food, such as a plant to eat.
Hey Paolo: What’s your cooking style?
I respect traditions and flavours. But you also need to put your own twist on everything.
Hey Paolo: What’s the future of Ellenika?
Ellenika is now on its 4th year. It has been a staple not just in Glenelg but in South Australia.
Ellenika will stay Ellenika. I’m hoping that in the next three or five years, I can further push Ellenika to be in the fine dining space.
Hey Paolo: Who is Damian outside Ellenika?
I love my family. I’m a family man. I love spending time with my parents, my friends, and my brother. My brother and I are very close. Damian outside Ellenika is all about the family.
I like fitness too and spending time with my dog. If I’m not at Ellenika, it’s nice to just relax.
Whenever I finish work way too late, there’s only one place I go to: the Kidman Pizza House. With a movie, my airpods on, and an order of a large pizza, I just sit at one corner of the pizza place. Sometimes you just need some alone time.
Ellenika Ocean Grill. Marina Pier Lights Landing Holdfast Shores, Shop 6/3 Chappell Drive, Glenelg SA 5045
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