Two Michelin-starred chef Konstantin Filippou knows all about fine dining. Half-Greek, half-Austrian, he not only possesses a talent for creating uniquely blended Mediterranean and Austrian flavours but also embodies the determination required to rise to the top of the Michelin Star list.
Boasting chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux as mentors in his early career, Filippou has spent the last two decades proving his worth as a talented, multi-award-winning chef. Attributing his success to a determined attitude and a team spirit, Konstantin Filippou refuses to strive for anything less than perfection.
Konstantin Filippou – The Early Days
Growing up in a multicultural family (Filippou’s mother is Austrian, and his father is Greek), Filippou’s childhood was spent flitting from the rolling hills of Austria to the warm climes of the Mediterranean Sea. Being taught from an early age by his parents that great food and exquisite flavours are the key to a happy life, Filippou decided to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Beginning his journey in some of Austria’s up-and-coming hotels and restaurants, Konstantin Filippou honed his skills in Austrian cuisine. Wanting to develop them further, in 2003 he began to work abroad and widen his skill set as well as develop his palette. In London and Spain, he worked under culinary greats, whom he credits with showing him the stamina and drive that is needed in a professional culinary career.
Restaurant Konstantin Filippou & O Boufés
In 2013, Filippou opened his first restaurant, “Konstantin Filippou”, in Vienna. After winning multiple awards including two Michelin stars and Gault Millau Chef of the Year, Filippou opened a second restaurant, the natural wine bistro O Boufés, and became a regular face on many European TV channels.
With such success and passion emulating from Konstantin Filippou’s career, we couldn’t wait to sit down with him and discuss where he thinks his drive and stamina are derived from and how instrumental his journey has been in making him the success he is today.
Tell us about your childhood. Were you a good eater? Did you spend a lot of time in the kitchen?
My parents would drive a long way to get great food. We’re not talking about caviar and lobster here, just really great food.
Cooking was a big thing in my childhood. I would watch my parents prepare dinner almost every night. Great ingredients, excellent quality; that was their thing.
From the initial idea of a dish to the plating, what would you say is the most artistic or creative part of a chef’s process? What is your favourite ingredient?
I get inspired by so many things: music, architecture, travelling, and my friends.
For me, a dish needs a great composition and a perfect platform to present it. My favourite ingredient is my imagination.
Since being awarded your first Michelin Star in 2014, how have you managed the pressure of maintaining success and upholding the name you’ve created today?
My mantra is “never stop”, and this has kept me going. But I also have to say that without my team, I would be nowhere. It’s a team sport, and we can only be on top together.
My mantra is “never stop”, and this has kept me going.
Being the owner and the chef of very successful restaurants and working in a team is a great challenge. What would be your advice to chefs just starting their careers, and how do you motivate your teams?
You require an idea, and you need to stick to this idea at all times. And you need to make people understand your idea. You have to make your team understand that if they want to be part of the best, they have to want to be better than the rest.
With so much effort going into each dish on the menu, how do you expect the clients to feel after leaving your restaurant?
I want them to want to come back.
Your signature restaurant, Konstantin Filippou, serves mostly fish dishes. Did you start to include seafood after you worked in San Sebastián?
San Sebastián was undoubtedly a very inspirational time for me. But I also spent my entire childhood in Greece by the sea. So, I take my inspiration from there.
After a few years and the international success of your first restaurant, you decided to open the second one, but more casual and with a wide list of the best organic wines. How did you come to this idea, and is it a challenge to run two different restaurants?
I have always wanted to run a fine-dining restaurant, a kind of living room space where I can relax with my friends as well. Running one restaurant is no more or less challenging than two if you are serious about what you are doing.
You said: “I have been to too many restaurants where food is worshipped and diners whisper”. How did you change this in your restaurants?
Our dining room is elegant but very casual at the same time. People can whisper if they'd like to. But they can also laugh and have a great time with us.
As half Greek and half Austrian, what was your culinary experience at home, and how did this influence your professional path?
The two hearts in my chest, the Mediterranean, and the Austrian will always lead my way. I love everything that comes from the sea, and I usually combine it with more earthy flavours from the Austrian countryside.
Your dishes are always so perfectly presented, almost symmetrical, small pieces of art. How important is it for a customer to see the dish before eating it?
It’s the whole package that drives me. I love creating great dishes, but also the right platform and cutlery that comes with it. Only with this, perfectly combined, am I satisfied. So, the culinary part cannot exist without the visual part.
Is there a particular dish that has nostalgic value or special meaning for you? Could you please tell us why?
Definitely! It’s my signature dish, the Brandade. I’ve been preparing it for almost twenty years now. It’s a comparable, simple, but savoury dish that my customers continue coming back for.
It reminds me of my youth; travelling and discovering my style of cooking. I created it, brought it to (my idea of) perfection, and have been making it ever since.
As a recognized chef, you probably learned from others over the years. Who has been your biggest influence or the person you most admire?
I had many influences during my early years, especially when travelling. But I really learned the most from all the people who showed and told me that everything is possible.
Your job is quite stressful and demanding. How do you like to unwind in your free time? (Please don’t say that you cook! ;))
Haha, it’s true! I don’t cook that often anymore when I am not working. I love to go out and eat at my favourite places here in Vienna and share this precious time with my family.
On your day off, are you the one who cooks for your family and friends, or do you just order a pizza? Do your friends dare to invite you for a homemade dinner?
No, I do not always cook. And yes, as a chef, one doesn’t get invited over for dinner that often. It’s a pity. People believe chefs are very demanding, but the truth is, I just want good food. That’s all.
We wonder, what’s your favourite city? And what are the top five attractions you’d recommend to your best friend when they visit it? (This could be anything from a restaurant, bar, gallery, shop, park, etc.)
Tokyo has captured me. I love the vibe of the City and the excellence of craftsmanship that comes from Japan in general.
On Kappabashi-Street, I could spend a fortune on kitchenware – amazing.
Thank you very much, it was a pleasure having you with us today.
1010 Wien, Austria