Interview with Executive Chef Eleni Manousou at Nobu Marbella

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The first female Executive Chef to join the Nobu Group

Eleni Manousou is a pioneer. She is the first female executive chef to join the Nobu group, and one of only two executive chefs in Andalucia. A massive accomplishment in a male-dominated industry and in a location, Marbella, which is home to some of the finest gastronomic restaurants in Spain and even Europe.  My Guide Marbella is proud to have the opportunity to interview Chef Eleni and discover a little more about the woman behind the seriously sharp knives!

Where are you from originally Eleni?  
From Greece, I grew up in Athens but I come from a small island call Kythira.

What made you want to become a chef?
It's all about my family memories. My family always celebrate special occasions with good food. At a young age, I was watching my mother and grandmother cook and would try to help them. Cooking makes me feel happy, proactive and it also relaxes me even when the kitchens are at full pace in high season! It was my hobby and then it became my career.

Where did you study? 
I studied in Greek Cuisine at ‘'Le Monde’’ Institute of Hotel and Tourism but in this role I am always studying!

What was your first job in a restaurant kitchen? How was the experience?
In 2005 in an Argentinean Restaurant in Athens, Greece. At first, the job was hard but it was a great team and I learna a lot in a very short space of time. I am grateful for those tough days because they were my first steps to get me where I am today. 

When did you start to specialise in Japanese cuisine? 
In 2010 when I started to work with the great Nobu Matsuhisa in Athens. I still remember my first day in the restaurant. I was completely surprised when I saw how fast the chefs were working! It was a very busy night and they put me to work in the cold section but I was completely lost as I didn’t have any idea about Japanese produce until that very moment! I had to learn on the job and under pressure but fortunately, there was a great chef at my side that explained to me about all the dishes and by the end of the night I felt very happy to be part of that team. 

Have you found it hard as a woman to be taken seriously and climb the industry ladder?
As a woman, I had challenges at my beginning. People in the industry always see you as a woman first and as chef second, but with hard work you can change their perspective. In my kitchen everybody is equal.

How is it working for the Nobu group?
Nobu is my family and my second home. I’m close to 9 years working with the group and the feeling is still like the first year.

What do you love most about Marbella and the region?
Coming from the South of Greece, Marbella reminds me a lot of home, people, culture, places, products. Marbella has amazing fresh products that I love to have and create my daily dishes with.

What are your thoughts about the current restaurant scene in Marbella?
Marbella Gastronomic scene is growing year by year and I believe we will be creating a unique restaurant scene in the future with new chefs and cooking styles coming together in one super cool cosmopolitan location. I can see it already happening. Of course, I also keep my eyes on My Guide Marbella to help me to search for new restaurants and to get helpful information.

Do you have time to relax and what do you do in Marbella when you have a day off?
On my day off I love to go on road trips around the South of Spain. I try to visit restaurants in Marbella and to look for new interesting places with my friends. I love Shrimps pil pil, sardines espetos, chipiron, fresh concha finas, coquinas al ajíllo. I guess my love of fish comes from the Japanese influence. 

What is your ultimate career goal?
My Career goal is to open my own restaurant, probably in Greece. But I love to live ''Today‘’ so whatever is going to happen in the future is always welcome.

If you could eat one Nobu dish for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
I can't choose!  But if I have to choose one is the Yellowtail Sashimi Jalapeño with Yuzu Soy.

Her career escalation and achievements aside Eleni has a heart of gold, and like many of us has been affected by Breast Cancer. Therefore Nobu are hosting a dinner in aid of Great Cancer awareness on Tuesday 16th October, where proceeds from the tickets will go directly to the charity. For Eleni, raising Awareness is an important thing. She believes we need to educate the public on the health impact of breast cancer, the importance of taking personal responsibility for health and with that way helping the foundation to continue the hard work of awareness.

Thank you to Chef Eleni for her time at Nobu Marbella and of course, thank you also to the entire team at the Puente Romano Marbella as always it is a pleasure to work with you all!