“What’s cooking, everybody? This is Chef Panagioti, and today we’re making chicken Parm with spaghetti,” 10-year-old Panagioti Karathanasis of Glen Cove said as he introduced his YouTube video “Chicken parmigiana with salad, garlic knots and ice-cream.”
This video was like no other. The young chef, who has been cooking an array of foods, from octopus to chicken potpie, from Greek recipes to desserts, on his YouTube channel, “Chef Panagioti Karathanasis,” has garnered almost 2,000 subscribers. For the video, he teamed up with chefs from well-known restaurants across the city to make a classic chicken Parmesan.
Jeanine DiMenna, from the View Grill; Michael Lezamiz, from Amalfi Pizzeria and Restaurant; and John Zozzaro, of Downtown Café, were among the 10 participants in Panagioti’s video. Each had a specific task, with a “passing of the spoon” — sautéing the onions and garlic, breading the chicken, adding the sauce or preparing the salad, garlic knots and ice cream that accompanied the meal.
“I had notes on who was doing what, so each chef, they had already prepared their part,” said Panagioti’s mother, Stacy Karathanasis, who has been helping her son with his cooking videos since last spring. “. . . When they were finished, the next chef took over and did their part. Like the sauce — it was already made at the Downtown Cafe.”
Once Stacy finished recording, she combined the clips to create an interactive experience for participants and viewers. “She’s great with that,” DiMenna said. “She did a fantastic job. She had a vision and she just ran with it.”
Even though the chefs couldn’t be in the same room together, they were making the same meal, which happens to be Panagioti’s favorite dish to order at an Italian restaurant (along with penne alla vodka).
The finished product, Glen Cove’s chicken Parmesan, was very good, he said.
“When the video was completed, he was so excited,” his mother said. “He gave me a hug, and the excitement on his face makes me [want to] go on and . . . make more of these, make him more happy, and it was so good to see everybody’s response.”
The video featured appeals from the participating chefs, telling viewers about the struggles that restaurateurs have faced through the pandemic and emphasizing that they were still here, providing safe takeout, delivery and even dine-in service.
“All the people in that video, we all care about each other and help each other, and most of us have been here a long time and we all support each other,” DiMenna said. “We want to see each other succeed. The community is small. We’ve all gone to school together, at least had interactions together.”
Seeing himself working with chefs from restaurants he’s been going to his whole life was exciting, Panagioti said. His mother said that his fellow chefs were happy to take part in the video, which not only promoted their businesses and the importance of supporting local restaurants, but also helped support the dreams of a young chef.
“I felt really excited about it,” DiMenna said. “He’s a great kid. He’s very passionate.”
Mario Bencivenni, the owner of Delicious Pizza, said he was a bit camera shy, but he didn’t want to turn down the chance to be a part of something so special for the community, and for Panagioti. “I think it’s great he’s having fun with food,” Bencivenni said. “It’s something he can do with his hands, and it comes from the heart. He likes what he’s doing.”
“He’s doing something creative,” DiMenna said. “He’s using his mind. He’s using his hands. He’s making things. He’s really taking the bull by the horns. He’s serious, at [10 years old]. It took me to about 14 until I knew what I wanted to do.”
Since the video came out on Jan. 27, DiMenna has collaborated with Panagioti to make a “golden meal,” with a 24-karat gold-leaf-encrusted steak, baked potato and beets, in another YouTube video.
“I think he has an army of chefs behind him that are going to do everything they can for him and teach everything they can to him, all the things they’ve learned and I’ve learned,” DiMenna said. “Pass it on.”
Making cooking videos has been a way to stay positive in a challenging time, both mother and son said. “I had no idea what was going on because we were so busy with our videos,” Stacy said. “The cooking, how we were going to put the videos together, the setup, getting everything ready for the videos. It kept us busy, and that was a great thing during this difficult thing.”
She promised that there’s more to come. Panagioti will be creating his own recipes, and more videos with local chefs. Find him, and all his cooking videos, on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/cookingnbakingwithpanagioti.