Bill Parasidis and Kathy Makris are mid-interview when they begin squabbling over a technicality of Makris’ culinary talents.
For Makris, cooking is instinct: she grew up in Greece, and, in her mother’s kitchen, she had no choice but to learn.
"I’m not a chef. I just love cooking," she says.
Parasidis begs to differ.
For the St. James restaurateur, landing the former owner of the Park Tower to man his kitchen is as big of a culinary coup as he could have hoped.
"After all these years, you can’t discredit yourself," he tells her.
"You have no say in the matter. It’s what you’ve become."
Makris, along with her husband Bill, took over the grills of The Nook & Cranny on Portage Avenue Jan. 1, and have been quick to add the familiar flavours of their Greek cuisine to the restaurant’s menu.
For the Makrises, the story is simple, if not relatable: after more than 17 years running the Park Tower, what began as pleasure had become simply work, and, burnt out, the duo closed the doors last year.
After a four-month break, the couple walked into The Nook to drum up a conversation with a stranger.
"We missed it so much. We wanted to relax, but not run a business," says Makris, who, living in Westwood when she arrived in Canada, saw the restaurant’s location, formerly Schmeckers, as a monument in the community.
"It was a good place to start over again and Bill took us on."
For Parasidis, it was the proverbial "match made in heaven."
Since opening up in January 2011, the West End resident had been looking to build a menu of homemade Greek cuisine to complement the staples born out of The Nook’s original location in West Broadway, which opened more than 20 years ago.
But the search for a good Greek cook who knew what he or she was doing proved easier said than done. When the Makrises walked in his door, Parasidis didn’t hesitate to hand them the olive oil.
"We started talking menu ideas right off the bat. I was smiling, she was smiling," Parasidis says.
"The rest is history. It’s exactly what we needed."
The partnership has been good for business so far. On this particular Wednesday afternoon, The Nook is filled with Park Tower regulars who have been flooding in to whet their appetites with the Makrises’ cooking once again.
"People have been coming to find me. It’s a wonderful thing," Makris says.
"They’re family to me. They’re not just my customers."
Adds Parasidis: "The phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking for Kathy. The regulars are coming in with tears and hugs. I’ve never seen so much love."