Owner and Chef
Nickname: “Omelette Whisperer”
I entered the hospitality industry in 1986 when I started washing dishes at my parent’s restaurant after I was informed I had to. I made the leap from dishwasher to chef when my mom and our then-chef at Eleni’s were both simultaneously incapacitated; my mom by a case of Pneumonia and our chef by a case of Old Milwaukee. Cooking proved to be a natural skill acquisition for me as I’d always delighted in setting things on fire.
After Eleni’s, my professional highlight was a two months stint as Back-Stage Buffet Line Manager for Spandau Ballet’s 1996 cross-country reunion tour. I didn’t get paid or learn anything culinarily.1 But I did get to hear an acoustic version of “True” during a show on a Mississippi River Wheel Boat that quite frankly, captured the sound of my soul. You can’t put a price on that.
Hobbies: I enjoy reading and will devour any book featuring realms, dimensions or worlds; fashion leanings that include shrouds, parkas or ponchos that render their wearer invisible; animals that shouldn’t be able to fly but can; elves and/or forest pixies with magical powers;2and a plot where an imprisoned princess can only be saved by a simple farm-hand from the middle realm who doesn’t know that in reality, he is a prince of the upper realm. If at some point during the story someone wields a flaming sword while riding on an air-borne unicorn, I’ll read it twice before lunch rush.
I am particularly fond of wearing indoor-outdoor shirt-jacket hybrids that are as comfortable as they will be stylish by the time I turn 70.3
I also enjoy dining out; yelling for reasons that are only known to me;4 and managing the expo line in attire that suggests I am always arriving to work straight from a Don Ho concert.
Greatest Regret: In the early 90’s I worked with both my brothers at a Greek restaurant in San Francisco. One night there was a situation where a guest wasn’t happy about something or other. John came to the kitchen and started blaming the other cooks and me. Words were exchanged, things escalated, and before I knew it, I had grabbed a lemon and threw it across the kitchen at John’s head. To this day, I regret that I missed.5
Little Known Facts about Me:
- My restaurant is named after my son Jack.
- Our Elena’s omelet is named after my daughter Elena.
- I have a somewhat unbalanced way of paying homage to my children through branding.
What I Most Like about Jack’s:
- That we close on Thanksgiving Day.
- That we serve breakfast lunch and dinner seven days a week, which means I get to enjoy the company of our staff and guests morning, noon and night.
What Great Hospitality Means to Me: It means what Olive Garden wants you to think it means by using actors to say it in their commercials: When you’re here, you’re family. And that’s no act.6
1. Did you think culinarily was a made up word? Don’t fret.
I did too.
2. I know. I know. “Elves or forest pixies with magical powers” is redundant.
3. It’s what fashion experts call “going long” on one’s wardrobe investment.
4. To get better control of my pointless rage, I recently bought a miniature Zen sand-garden, which I rake back-and-forth for hours with a teeny tiny rake. I find that this practice brings me an overwhelming sense of calm. Unless I don’t take a Valium. Then the raking never seems to take.
5. I gained an accidental measure of redemption when I shot John in the face with a B.B. gun. Again, that was an accident. An accident I say.
6. My one and only foray into acting: Senior year high school I was Big Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The ideal role for me. No lines. Lots of grunting.
Nickname: “Dances with Chair in Mouth, Glass on Face”
I started in the restaurant business in 1986 when my parents, after opening Eleni’s in the Clayton Valley Shopping Center, soon discovered that we didn’t have anybody to nap in the car while John and David worked.1
A perfect fit for the job, it did not take long for me to discover other places to nap, like the bathroom and the boxes of produce in the storage room.
After Eleni’s closed, I moved to LA to pursue my life-long dream of being Hugh Hefner and/or owning a black leather sectional with 12 cup holders.2 To achieve my dream, I became a nightclub promoter.
I was a nightclub promoter for several years in Los Angeles. This was a grueling job that called for 90 – 100 hours of work every year. As you can imagine, the stress of working two to three hours on a regular basis every Saturday and once-a-month on Fridays finally got to me. For proper work-life balance I had to scale back to 7 to 8 hours once a year for my annual Playboy Mansion Party.
Why I Left the Club Life: I don’t know. I don’t know.3
Greatest Achievement: Adding a sub-woofer system to the trunk of my Camaro in 1988 that put-out so much wattage it jolted my car, banged my head on the interior roof and knocked me unconscious when I put on “Brass Monkey” while waiting at a stop-light at the corner of Ygnacio Valley and Clayton Road.
My Personal Interests: My passion – professional, recreational and spiritual – is to always point things out. My other passion is to defer making any immediately needed decisions indefinitely. Additionally, I am fond of developing painstakingly superfluous back-stories to vignettes and anecdotes. Also…meetings.
Little Known Facts about Me:
- My beautiful baby girl Nicoletta was born just before midnight.
- My Best-Man almost set his underwear on fire at my wedding in Greece. 5
- I have never gone to bed before 3 a.m.
What I Love About Jack’s:
- Our restaurant in Pleasant Hill came with giant mirrors on both sides of the dining room. It’s like someone knew I’d end up there.
- Our guests who – from day one – have become our friends.
- The people I come to work with every day. You can’t actually call this working.
What Great Hospitality Means to Me: It means what it meant to our mom: Cook great food. Be nice.
Plus it doesn’t hurt to throw in 80-inch HDTV’s and Dolby Surround Sound speakers…heavy on the bass of course.
1. Apparently they’re still bitter about this. Don’t know why.
2. It also had a hidden compartment, reclining seats, chargers for your electronic devices, and a hidden, concrete-fortified bunker to ride-out the Apocalypse.
3. Repeat this with your face in your hands while weeping bitterly.
4. The ideal meeting is immediately followed by another meeting that assesses, solidifies, and synthesizes the previous meeting’s agenda and outcomes.
5. It was the fourth most interesting thing to happen at my wedding.
Nickname: “Janice” 1
I have been in the restaurant business since 1986 when my parent’s opened Eleni’s in the Clayton Valley Shopping Center. Not a minute went by there that I didn’t cherish.2
Official Jack’s Title: Tactical Liaison for the Department of Merriment and Mirth Enhancement Tasked with On-Going Quality Control and Distribution of Jameson Shots.
Likes: Calling everyone “my friend.” I like yelling “COME ON PEOPLE!” to motivate the staff and/or cover up for the fact I’m not sure what’s happening. I enjoy espousing, with equal conviction, contradictory ideas in the same sentence.
Hidden Talents: The game Labrynth, making rice, simultaneously watching twelve shows on television. I can also see the future, an ability inherited from my Greek oracular ancestry in general, and from my warlock great-great grandfather in specific.3
Little Known Fact About Me: For five years I impersonated an adjunct professor of Communication Studies at the University of San Francisco. Was finally discovered when in-coming students began asking Registration where they could sign up for the Public Speaking 101 Class held at O’Neils Pub.
Not-So-Great Moments in Restaurant History But A Great Moment in Public Health Policy: In the late 80’s, while bussing a table at Eleni’s, I accidentally spilled an ashtray full of cigarette butts and ashes down a guest’s blouse. The ensuing fall-out, and not the effects of second-hand smoke, was the actual precursor to banning smoking in public. 4
What I love about Jack’s:
- The full bar.
- The pictures of our kids.
- I love how our staff, day in and day out, takes to heart our request to make this a great restaurant for themselves, for our guests, and for all of us.
What Great Hospitality Means to Me: Dining transcends the simple act of sating hunger. In homes, when a meal is planned and prepared, when family sits together to enjoy the cook’s labors, they are perpetuating a heritage and a grandmother’s lessons. It is where the right aromas can recall, like nothing else can, our childhood. Where the day’s adventures are plotted and later, where its most significant events recalled. It is where glasses are raised in honor, in pride, in recognition and in toasts to each other. Where a meal painstakingly planned and perfectly executed, persuades romance in our favor. It is where on a Saturday morning, over pancakes and coffee, it occurs to us that we have fallen in love.5 Where a girlfriend says yes to a lifetime proposition.6
Great hospitality means remembering in our restaurants all that is sacred and sublime in the act of sharing a table.7
1. Janice is a nickname I acquired when I worked at a Greek restaurant and went by my Greek name Yiannis, which one crew- member from the Yucatan could only pronounce as “Janice.” Thankfully, it took.
2. This is a lie. Not a minute went by there that I didn’t try to bankrupt the restaurant, predominantly by sulking. Unfortunately, the restaurant succeeded despite my best efforts to annoy our guests. That’s how good my mom’s cooking was.
3. I am able to do this by reading the grounds remaining at the bottom of a Greek coffee cup. This is a talent I no longer employ owing to the Cease and Desist Injunction won by the Association of Bulgarian Tea Leaf Readers for proprietary infringement.
4. I think everything would have been fine had I not insisted on personally cleaning the mess.
5. Make it over America’s Best Coffee. Available for purchase to take home with you today.
6. Or no, as has happened. Jack’s bears no responsibility for your significant other’s wishes to be not-so-significant.
7. It is also basically plagiarizing the themes from Like Water for Chocolate and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman in order to try and sound cool on your Website’s bio page.