ARI VEZENE

Born in New York City by immigrant parents, Ari Vezene is a self-taught chef, butcher who culinary embraces the cultural diversity of his birthplace, New York, and his respect for the culinary heritage of Greece, one he continuously discovers. His cooking style is 50% Ionian Island inspired and 50% the amalgam of his food travels around the world.

Returning to Chicago in 1995, at the age of 19, he began his studies in Architecture, while working the kitchen at Burger King wrapping bacon double cheese burgers. Being a typical Libra, he switched fields and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Finance and Marketing. Unsatisfied with the professional future of his studies, he decided to continue in the industry he fell in love with, that of butchery, cooking, restaurants, and hospitality. 

After 10 years of wondering around the American continent and restlessly working in established kitchens, butcher shops and slaughter houses in Chicago, he felt he finally grasped the core of whole animal butchery philosophy and appreciated how that practice transcends in every culture’s family meal.  End of 2005 he makes a bold decision to return to his motherland and reconnect with his family. Initially, to understand the local market, he chose to work next to Kostas Spiliadis of Milos Restaurants. Around 2008 he sets up shop in his father’s birthplace, Meganisi, and opened his first restaurant, Trattoria Vezené, a seafood fueled kitchen inspired by the aromas of the Ionian Sea.

Three years later, in the middle of the financial meltdown, he took the risk and opened Vezené, a “Greek Inspired Bistro” in Athens, opposite the Hilton.  During his 8 year operation, he pioneered the “Off-Broadway” beef cuts movement to the Greek market, and revived the ancient art of dry-aging. 

In his last project, Birdman Japanese Pub + Grill, tucked away in alley near Syntagma Square, Ari pays homage to his Japanese and Korean university schoolmates who introduced him to the “yakitori-ya” culture.  At this kitchen-counter, the robata serves yakitori, kushiyaki, and Niku style steaks, while he also gets creative with dry aged beef nigiri and a daily wagyu ramen bowl, all of which are guided by the Far east technique of Japanese butchery, a style he extensively studied during recent years and fell in love with.

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