Although the Peloponnese is just a half-day's drive west of Athens, it can be a hard region to pry open. Tourists rarely venture here, even if the wide expanse of craggy mountains has more than its share of that distinctly Greek take on coastlines, where the hills seemingly disappear into the sea. But I have as my guide Michael Psilakis, the chef at the taverna Kefi and the gastropub Gus and Gabriel in Manhattan (and an F&W Best New Chef 2008), who has come to explore some of the ingredients and traditions that inspire his food.
© Martin Morrell
We're standing by the side of the road in Pylos, on the western coast of the Peloponnese, not far from the village where Psilakis's mother was born. The glassy Ionian Sea is reflecting the morning light with such intensity that there seem to be two suns, one in the sky and one in the water.
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Looking out at the horizon, Psilakis poses a philosophical question. "Is gift-giving a selfish act?" he asks in his gravelly voice. "Dude, I've been thinking about this for 40 years. André Soltner [the legendary French chef] wrote that all chefs are gift-givers by nature. But if it brings you so much pleasure, are you doing it for others or for yourself?