Mia Papadopoulos has always had a love of food and wine. It’s in her blood and her success at just 25 years old shows just what passion and dedication can create. Beginning at Waterfront Wines, the Edmontonian made her way through hospitality and tourism, then took a stab at culinary school before completing her wine studies and sommelier certification. Mia is a woman who knows what she wants and is a force to be reckoned with. Here, Papadopoulos talks to us about working front of house at Krafty Kitchen in Kelowna.
How long have you been at Krafty Kitchen?
I returned to Kelowna after travelling and tasting my way through France, Italy, and Spain. I helped open Krafty Kitchen 18 months ago as a server, but quickly became the general manager.
Tell me about the big patio at Krafty in comparison to other restaurants in Kelowna.
Yeah, we lucked out with our location. Surprisingly enough, there really aren’t that many large patios in Kelowna’s restaurants, which is odd considering we’re a city on the water. Coming from Calgary where there are plenty of beautiful patios, Chris really wanted to take advantage of our longer season and highlight the big patio.
What’s it like working for a celebrity like Chris Shaften?
It can get pretty dramatic at times, but we hope to create an atmosphere that’s calm and playful. Some people are bummed to hear that he didn’t win Top Chef Canada, which is silly because he creates really beautiful food and we strive to offer top quality service.
Do you think that celebrity status works for or against Chris in amassing a loyal following?
Oh, it’s working for him! Sometimes we get some negative PR, what with his ex-MasterChef-relationship, but it’s never caused the restaurant any harm. Krafty Kitchen is designed to be a chef-driven restaurant, featuring the best local sustainable ingredients and that’s what really counts.
You have some of the finest local food and wine at your fingertips, being in the Okanagan. Is there local producer that you’re passionate about?
We shop at the farmers’ market twice a week and we particularly love Green Croft Gardens. They’re an organic farm along the Shuswap River that supplies us with year-round produce. We can get cellared apples and pears from them even in the winter. They’re really wonderful.
What is your current favourite Okanagan wine?
Orofino Vineyards located in Cawston. They’re an eco-friendly, solar powered, straw bale vineyard that’s producing incredible wines. They highlight our specific terroir and their vineyards consist of some of the best farmers in the valley.
What varietal/bottle do you think isn’t given enough attention?
Cab franc. It’s most often used in blending, but isn’t highlighted. I love it because it has such range, varying from as light as a pinot noir to as dark as a cabernet sauvignon. It’s such a plush and beautiful and sexy grape, and it just isn’t bottled enough on its own.
What’s one of the weirdest dishes you’ve seen come out of Krafty Kitchen?
A sous-vide then grilled octopus, served with squid ink Capitelli and a sherry air. It’s super weird on the plate and awesome in the mouth.
Is there a dish Chris Shaften makes that you love but isn’t on the menu?
Yeah, he made a staff meal once that was kind of a clean-out-the-fridge salad: using up the bread ends to make these incredible croutons with leftover menu-testing blood sausage and a kombucha vinaigrette. It was something you’d never see on a menu, but it was delicious.
What’s one of your biggest pet peeves around front of house?
The gluten-free phenomenon and diet requests. [People] come to the restaurant with the expectation that the menu would be tailored to their special diet. We try to accommodate requests whenever we can, but that doesn’t allow the menu that Chef Shaften has so passionately and specifically put together to really shine. We do our best to encourage them and give them the confidence that the dish will be delicious as is.
Do you have a guilty culinary pleasure?
Champagne! Champagne and sparkling wine are my first drink of choice. And foie gras, I can’t resist it on a menu. The pairing of the two--smooth, unctuous foie with the crisp acidity of the bubbly--oh, it’s pure heaven.
If you weren’t in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
Well, it’s really hard not to think of a life in hospitality and tourism. It’s really where my heart is. Probably, a wine tour business, if I couldn’t be in a restaurant. Or senior living, I love seniors homes.