A conversation with Maria Petridis on winning the TV cooking competition.
Article By Maria Benardis, Estiator Magazine, March 2020
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My afternoon lunch date is Maria Petridis, a 2016 winner of the Food Network’s Chopped. Her appearance on the show is not the first by a Greek. Nicholas Poulmentis from New York (who won in 2018) and Chef Sophia Manatakis from New Jersey (who also was on in 2018) are among several others who have made it to the speed-cooking competition. What sets Petridis apart from some of the others is that she has had no formal culinary training. Petridis owns Maria’s Mediterranean in Bayside, New York. The restaurant opened in 2011. Petridis, 52, exudes joy when you meet her. We instantly connected and talked openly as if we had known each other for years. My mission was to discover all her secrets to winning Chopped.
In keeping with true traditional Greek hospitality, a delicious and colorful spread was laid out. This was no ordinary lunch; it was a banquet of monumental proportions. Dishes included a Greek salad, dips (six dips in fact!) with pita chips, grilled octopus with baby arugula and sundried tomatoes, her Chopped-winning branzino (it made all other branzino dishes I’ve had look like sardines) and wild blueberry baklava with tahini ice cream. Everything was made using top-notch ingredients, seasoned harmoniously, and plated with care, precision, and love. Petridis, a “farm girl,” helped run her family’s small farm in the small village of Skoutari, Serres, Greece. She would milk the cows and cook for her hungry family.
She was taught to cook by her mother, Chrisoula Tsomaridou, and she honed her skills over the years. “I came to the USA for a better life. I did not know English. I dreamt of leaving Greece and going to greener pastures. I knew there was more to life than just milking cows. It was a very tough environment. I started cooking from the age of 8 to feed my family, who worked
in the fields. I would work with what ingredients the farm provided.” Perhaps it was this tough environment that prepared her for her Chopped win.