A consistent crowd favorite since its opening, The Black Cypress in Pullman is Nikiforos Pitsilionis’ first on-his-own culinary endeavor.The restaurant is coming up on its eighth year and Pitsilionis and his staff continue to wow customers with tasty dipping sauces, flavorful pasta and perfectly roasted chicken. It’s not just locals who are into what he’s doing, Pitsilionis will be a featured chef at Crave NW, a culinary showcase of Inland Northwest food and drink taking place this month in Spokane Valley (details below).
We caught up with Pitsilionis via email to find out more about his culinary influences, interests and what he’s using in his kitchen these days:
Name: Nikiforos (Nick) Pitsilionis
Culinary background/training: I started working in my family’s restaurant in Kenai, Alaska at age 13 — I wrecked my mom’s car on a joy ride and spent the rest of the summer in the kitchen. In my 20s, “The French Laundry Cookbook” was a huge influence, as was Tom Colicchios’ “Think Like a Chef.” Other than that, travel played a big role.
Past restaurants: Worked at The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.) in 2003 and Nectar (Moscow) 2007-9.
Other culinary projects: Partner at Etsi Bravo in Pullman, a cocktail lounge and dance club.
Primary cuisine and flavors: French, Italian and Greek, for me personally, but Black Cypress is an American restaurant in that, while it may be rooted in my experience, it draws from the backgrounds of whomever happens to be cooking there on any particular day — Thai, Brazilian, Mexican, etc.
Most popular dish at Black Cypress: Pan-roasted chicken with bread salad and roasted kale.
Personal favorite dish at Black Cypress: Spaghetti Pomodoro — it’s easily the most humble and simple dish we make, but it never stopped making me happy.
Favorite meal to prepare at home: Chicken soup
Most difficult dish you’ve ever attempted: Spit-roasted old goat
Advice for home chefs: Cook what you love to eat, keep cooking it and refine it. In a short time you’ll be making something inimitable that will bring heaps of happiness to the people you love.
Trick of the trade you use the most: Getting young dedicated and talented people to cook with me.
Current favorite or most often used ingredient: Nettles
If you could only use five tools from your kitchen, what would they be: Chinese cleaver, pressure cooker, chinois, apron and side towels.
Favorite specialized kitchen tool/gadget: Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker and Zojirushi rice cooker.
New ingredients you’re using or playing with right now: XO sauce
Crave! Inland Northwest is a showcase of food and drink taking place June 15-18 in Spokane Valley. Chefs from around the country and region will demonstrate their craft with a focus on Northwest food producers and ingredients. The event offers food sampling, educational experiences and direct interaction with chefs and exhibitors at seminars, hands-on classes, wine pairings, cocktail tours and chef-hosted parties. There are more than ten separately ticketed events with prices that range from $40 – $315.