Melbourne chef Vas Donoudis is packing away the pasta maker and getting back in touch with his Grecian roots for his event Hats off to the Greek, as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

“When I was living in Sydney, all the hatted restaurants would always have a hats off dinner on the Monday nights of the Sydney Food Festival. The concept being, the chef would take their hats off and have a playful night with cuisine they don’t usually cook in their restaurant. So I decided to do the same in Melbourne and cook Greek food here at Church St Enoteca. This is a chance to do something different at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and let your hair down and enjoy it.”

Church St Enoteca is well-known for it’s quality Italian cuisine. But, is everything turning on it’s head by having a Greek feast at an Italian eatery? “What I want to do with the event is to show people how similar the Italian and Greek cuisines are.”

Donoudis remembers his father commenting on his dish squid ink braided with white polenta as being very Greek. “He mentioned that that dish was very Greek so I looked it up in my Greek cookbook and there it was.” “There are similar ingredients that they use. All the vegetables that we use in Greece – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchinis – they are all very popular in Italy as well. Baby goat, baby lamb are popular in both cuisines. The more I look into and study it the closer I see the two cuisines being.”

And with every Greek or Italian feast, wine features heavily at the table. “With the wines, we are going to look for wine grapes that are from Italy but have their roots in Greece as well. Grape varieties that were taken over to Italy by the Greeks thousands of years ago are now grown and sold around the world as Italian wine.”

As well as a night of fun and serving up different foods in the restaurant, Donoudis plans on educating the masses that there’s more to Greek food than souvlakia and horiatiki salata. “I think there is a sector in the Greek food industry that hasn’t been tapped into. Food that you wouldn’t get in a taverna but isn’t fine dining. I want to showcase this Greek food.”

A trained chef, Donoudis highlights that the food that will be on the menu at this event is very much the food that is nearest and dearest to his heart. “My family are all great cooks, my grandma in Greece was an awesome cook, my auntie in Athens is an amazing cook, so there are certain things that you remember with their food that stay in the back of your mind. I think you’ll find dishes you love and cook at home, they are foods that you grew up with.”

Hats off to the Greek is part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Monday 7 March, 7pm – 10:30pm, Church St Enoteca, 527 Church Street, Richmond, $95 includes food and wine.