written by Gregory Pappas December 13, 2017
Maria Loi’s story can be easily called a modern day American dream. The New York City-based chef, restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author arrived from Greece less than five years ago and immediately hit the ground running.
She was recently named one of New York City’s top women in food service by Total Food Service, a national publication about the food service industry that tracks trends and news from the sector.
The list includes some of New York City’s top females ranging from chefs to owners and managers of food service businesses.
Loi, who hails from a tiny village in the mountains above Nafpaktos in Central Greece has had a highly successful and extensive career. Fortune Magazine and the James Beard Foundation selected her as one of America’s top six female chefs and invited her to the 2014 Fortune: The Most Powerful Women Summit.
In addition, Loi is no stranger to television. Not only is she a frequent television guest and speaker regarding various aspects of Greek cuisine and culture, but she is also a well-known television chef in Greece.
Stateside, she has appeared alongside Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, who credited Loi with having the “world’s best branzino” at her restaurant and convincing him to take his vacation in Greece last summer.
In June of 2016, Loi was unanimously re-elected for a second term as the official Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy from the Chef’s Club of Greece, a nation and a culinary heritage which she won’t stop promoting.
When her dips and spreads were added to the shelves of Whole Foods, Maria famously lifted a jar of skordalia in one hand and a jar of tzatziki in the other and told media that “this isn’t about Maria Loi, it’s about Greece and getting this blue and white flag in more U.S. supermarkets.
Loi hasn’t stopped being a champion for the nation she emigrated from five years ago.
In 2012, she accepted an invitation to cook for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and 250 honored guests at the White House annual celebration of Greek Independence Day during which time her “Greek baklava” caused a minor diplomatic incident between Greeks and Turks, who argued over the dessert’s ethnic origins.
Loi also authored a book published by Harper Collins titled The Greek Diet, offering a look into Greek Mediterranean lifestyle along with a number of healthy and delicious recipes.
Her restaurant, Loi Estiatorio, is located in the heart of Manhattan, just steps from Carnegie Hall and Central Park and already has a host of celebrity “regulars” like Ryan Seacrest, Tony Bennett who lives in the neighborhood and now calls the restaurant his “neighborhood joint” and Star Trekker George Takei.