Hugo Uys’ bio pic by Karl Simone
By Naveen Duwadi
Each month, Chef Hugo dives into the best of the ever-changing NYC food scene, offering up his top 5 restaurant discoveries. Going along for the ride, he’ll interview a noted South African celebrity, getting to know them over a great food and delicious conversation. Want to eat and drink like a New Yorker? Keep your eyes on this page.
[The Guest] In Conversation with Nadia Neophytou
Self-proclaimed “professional name-dropper,” noted entertainment journalist, and marathoner, Nadia Neophytou’s passions are as varied as the celebrities she’s interviewed. From conversations with Meryl Streep, to sitting down with Sarah Jessica Parker, to covering the Oscars and Sundance Film Festival, Nadia came to NYC with a dream 10-odd years ago, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
A nod to her Greek background, Hugo and Nadia caught up over a meal at one of the East Village’s hidden Greek gems: Pylos.
As a native South African, what pushed you to make the move to NYC? Was it your first stop state-side?
I moved to New York on the hope and the dream of interviewing Meryl Streep over lunch in the West Village one day. I enjoyed being an entertainment journalist in South Africa, but was itching for the longest time to take things to the proverbial next level, and to meet and interview people I admired in film, TV and theater in the city that never sleeps. After 5 years as the arts and entertainment journalist at Eyewitness News in Johannesburg, I knew I had to make the move before I turned 30 if it was ever going to happen. The first place I visited in the US was Los Angeles to interview Will Smith in 2006, but it was when I came to New York to cover the Mandela Day concert at Radio City Music Hall, that I realized I could make it work here. Some days it can be just like living in my own Sex and the City episode, and others, it’s a battle for my wits!
If you could have a meal with any of the celebrities that you’ve interviewed, who would it be with?
The obvious answer would be Oprah, because who wouldn’t want to enjoy a meal in her divine company? But I’m going to go with another obvious choice, Charlize Theron, because we both grew up in Benoni, and I’d love to break bread with her and chat about how she adapted to life in the US at a young age—not to mention, she’s hilarious and fun, and could tell me what it was like to film a music video with my celebrity crush, Brandon Flowers from The Killers.
How did running get into the picture?
I interviewed acclaimed South African photojournalist João Silva during his recovery from losing his legs after he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan while on assignment for the New York Times. As part of his recovery, he said he was going to take part in the NYC Marathon in the hand-cycle division for the Wounded Warriors organization, which helps veterans. I was so deeply moved by his determination, that when he crossed that finish line, I vowed that I would one day too, take on the marathon for a charity I believed in—even though I had never run more than 20 minutes on a gym treadmill before! But in training for it, I ended up falling in love with running for the sense of achievement and self-confidence it gave me, and also for the routine it brought to my life as a freelancer. I started making routes based on movie locations and cultural sights, and ended up creating a YouTube series called The Rundown with Nadia Neophytou to bring my two passions together and share it with others.
Being conscious of your health and overall wellness, are there certain foods that you gravitate towards?
I typically eat foods that I know are going to provide me with energy for running and help in the recovery process, especially after those 15 milers! I eat lots of almond butter, eggs, quinoa, bananas, and strangely enough, I’ve also developed a strong affection for broccoli ever since becoming a runner.
Having a Greek background, I’m sure you’re used to eating healthy, freshly prepared dishes. What are your favorite, traditional Greek dishes, and do you have any tips for eating clean for those of us non-Greeks?
The key ingredient is good olive oil. You can’t go wrong with a lovely, vibrant Greek salad—cucumbers, tomato, feta, olives and olive oil. I usually forgo sauces and dressings for lemon; I put it on almost everything. That being said, I’m also a sucker for delicious pastitso, which is a baked pasta dish with a meat and béchamel sauce. It’s divine, but it’s very hard to find someone who makes it like my yiayia (granny) used to!
[The Top 5] Chef Hugo Uys’ Top Greek Restaurants in NY
In New York, Greek food is synonymous with health-forward, clean eats. From simple greek salads, to grilled fish and octopus, if you’re trying to eat consciously, going Greek is a win-win: full bodied food that doesn’t make you feel ‘full bodied.’ Here’s Hugo’s list of the 5 best Greek restaurants in the city this year.
Best Dish: Pastitsio
Best Dish: Chilean Sea Bass Souvlaki
#3: Loi Estiatorio
Best Dish: Salt-Baked Fish for Two
#4: Taverna Kyclades
Best Dish: Saganaki
Price: See restaurant
Best Dish: Carabinieros
Price: See restaurant
[The Recipe] Multi-Layered Greek Dip
As a chef, entertaining is part of my every day. One of my go-to’s—whether for a cocktail hour or appetizer for a family style meal—are dips with flatbread or crudite. Traditional Greek cuisine includes so many delicious and flavorful dips. What better way to enjoy them, then by layering them one on top of the other? Here’s a recipe for a Greek-inspired layered dip that’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser both sides of the Atlantic.
Multi-Layered Greek Dip Ingredients:
- 8 oz plain hummus (see recipe below)
- 4 oz Greek plain yogurt
- 4 oz baba ganoush (see recipe below)
- 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 1 medium plum tomato, seeded, chopped
- 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
- 1/3 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber
- 1/4 cup chopped red onions
- 1 medium green pepper, cut into rectangles
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Multi-Layered Greek Dip Method:
- Spread hummus on a shallow serving platter or in a pie plate. Layer with baba ganoush. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, parsley, lemon juice and pepper; spread evenly over the baba ganoush. Top with tomato, olives, chopped cucumber, feta cheese and onions. Drizzle with good olive oil.
- 15 oz chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup lemon juice, more to taste
- 1 medium clove garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, to taste
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Place chickpeas in a saucepan and add the baking soda.
- Cover the chickpeas with water, then bring the mixture to a boil–for about 20 min or until the chickpeas look bloated.
- In a fine-mesh strainer, drain the chickpeas and run cool water over them for about 30 seconds. (No need to peel the chickpeas).
- In a food processor or high-powered blender, combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt.
- Process until the garlic is very finely chopped, then let the mixture rest so the garlic flavor can mellow.
- Add the tahini to the food processor and blend until the mixture is thick and creamy.
- While running the food processor, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water. Scrape down the food processor, and blend until the mixture is ultra smooth, pale and creamy.
- Add the cumin and the drained, over-cooked chickpeas to the food processor.
- While blending, drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until the mixture is super smooth.
- Taste, and adjust as necessary–I almost always add another ¼ teaspoon salt for more overall flavor, and another tablespoon of lemon juice for extra zing.
Baba Ganoush Ingredients:
- 1.75 lbs eggplant
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp plain full fat yogurt
Baba Ganoush Method:
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven.
- Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan.
- Halve the eggplants lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil.
- Place them in the prepared pan with the halved sides down.
- Roast the eggplant until the interior is very tender throughout and the skin is collapsing
- Place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, then transfer the flesh to the strainer and discard the skins.
- You want to remove as much moisture from the eggplant here as possible, so let the eggplant rest for a few minutes and shake/stir the eggplant to release some more moisture.
- Add the garlic and lemon juice to the eggplant and stir.
- Add the tahini to the bowl and stir until it’s incorporated.
- While stirring, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
- Continue stirring until the mixture is pale and creamy, add in yogurt and use your fork to break up any particularly long strings of eggplant.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Get in Touch with Chef Hugo Uys
Naveen Duwadi is the non-obvious millennial foodie. He’s worked extensively in the digital space, and was part of the initial team at HelloGiggles, a digital brand founded by actress Zooey Deschanel. Since then, he’s worked across Time Inc.’s food and luxury publications including FOOD & WINE and Travel + Leisure, helping to market the brands to Fortune 500 companies. Naveen currently resides in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, where he’s endlessly researching his next greatest meal.