Slow & Low 24

Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen’s Greek Roots

Like so many chefs, Giorgio Bakatsias developed a passion for food in his mother’s kitchen. But unlike most of the chefs we feature, Bakatsias’ maternal cooktop wasn’t tucked into a Southern canteen, or even an American one, but in the quiet village of Karista, Greece.

There, he and his mother raised gardens and fashioned dishes using those wholesome, local ingredients and seasoning them with love. It’s that approach that still marks Bakatsias’ restaurants today. “Food to me is an expression of love and sharing,” he explains, “that’s basically the essence of it.”

Though Bakatsias’ family migrated to the States when he was 12, his worldly approach to food never changed. “One of my greatest inspirations was my travels to Paris when I was 15,” he explains. “Paris ignited a fire in me that made me feel the sensuality of food.” His flame lit, Bakatsias went on to explore the world via food, bringing his discoveries to his various restaurants in North Carolina. “Cooking for me was traveling the universe and wanting to understand the people and their flavors.”

Many argue that the apex of his extensive culinary endeavors is right here in Asheville: Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen. “The building that houses Golden Fleece whispered and winked at me at first sight—it wanted to host a feast,” he says of the historic Grovewood Village location, flashing a smile.

It’s not just the space that sets Golden Fleece apart, but the menu. Thoughtfully penned recipes are prepared, as the name suggests, slowly and with respect for the earth. The dishes are influenced by Bakatsias’ Greek heritage, certainly, but also by his international wanderings. Traditional dishes like melitzanosalata and tzatziki fit as comfortably into the menu as the wood-roasted chicken, seasoned with caper berries, chimichurri sauce, and charred lemon. The result is a feast that’s inspired by the world with roots vested in Carolina.