Monday, January 19, 2015
Diners in the Timmins area who are seeking fresh, quality cuisine made with family pride have a new destination.
â€¨â€¨Located beside the Porcupine Mall, just off Highway 101 East, Kanellosâ€™s Plaza Family Restaurant has been open since late November.
The owner and head chef, Kanellos Fountoukis, has spent nearly his entire life in the kitchen.
It is a craft he was born into, as his father was also a chef.â€¨â€¨
Fountoukis has owned restaurants all over Ontario, including several years in Chapleau, approximately 200km southwest of Timmins. â€¨
Since the opening, he has been overwhelmed by the community support.
â€œI chose Porcupine because I found this location. Sometimes youâ€™re lucky, like you win a lottery, thatâ€™s how I feel here, very good people who support us. Weâ€™re doing great. Not even in my dreams did I think weâ€™d be doing this well. But we are always trying to get better and betterâ€ said Fountoukis.â€¨â€¨
The restaurant serves Canadian, Italian, and Greek cuisine.
Classics such as fish and chips, chicken parmesan, and grilled T-bone steaks are available, as well as breakfast items such as omelettes and an extensive appetizers menu.
â€œWe make homemade gravy. Everything is homemade. We buy all of our meat from a local butcher. Every day we have different specials,â€ said Fountoukis.
The restaurant has been somewhat cautious in introducing Greek food to locals.
In many other Canadian cities, Greek restaurants are as common as coffee shops.
Unfortunately, thatâ€™s not the case in Timmins which often struggles to support restaurants serving ethnic fare.
If burgers and pizza arenâ€™t on the menu, it can be a hard road.â€¨â€¨
â€œWe donâ€™t just have Greek food. Thereâ€™s a lot of talk about people wanting more Greek dishes. We can put a lot more on the menu, but we have to see the interest. I donâ€™t want to make food and throw it away. I want my food to be fresh. But we have been selling a lot of Souvlaki,â€ said Fountoukis.
Family restaurants cooking everything from scratch have become a rarity, with many patrons preferring standardized, convenience food.â€¨â€¨
â€œIâ€™ve been back in Canada for six years, and I find things are a bit different now. There are too many franchises. You canâ€™t find old fashioned food. Iâ€™ve cooked all my life. Iâ€™ve gone to school. I didnâ€™t just stick with what my dad taught me. I went back to Greece and cooked in a Greek army school. In Europe, food moves fast. Every year you see new kinds of dishes, but homemade, not franchised,â€ he said.
â€¨â€¨Fountoukis points out a major disadvantage of eating at a chain.
â€¨â€¨â€œI went to a big name franchise restaurant, one that we have here in Timmins. I wanted to order a dish. I said â€˜Can I have this, but please, not spicy?â€™ and he told me â€˜No you cannot have it without spice because itâ€™s already cooked.' I had just come back from Greece and I thought â€˜What the hell is going on here? Pre-cooked food?â€ he said.
Fountoukis also has concerns that young people who have an interest in the culinary field may be discouraged by their experiences working at a chain restaurant.
It is an environment where bad habits can form quickly.
â€¨â€¨â€œFranchises have killed the cook. Itâ€™s very hard to find people. Thereâ€™s a big difference between being a chef and a short-order cook. Anyone can reheat pre-made food. I want somebody who makes food from scratch. Iâ€™m hoping to teach somebody. They have to be eager and have to listen. Good food has to be cooked right. Itâ€™s a problem not just up here, but everywhere Iâ€™ve gone, including Montreal. Almost everywhere, the cooks are 50-60 years old. Young people donâ€™t seem to want to cook, they donâ€™t want to learn, but I can tell you itâ€™s a very good field to get into. Everyone likes to eat,â€ he said.
It is the simple menu items such as gravy, which can often be the difference between a restaurant staying open and having its doors close, especially in Northern Ontario. Quality is paramount.
â€œSuppliers try to make lives easier for owners. You can buy two or three kinds of powder. You put it in water and itâ€™s done in one minute. For good gravy, you have to use bones and vegetables. Iâ€™m making gravy right now that wonâ€™t be done for another 10 hours. You canâ€™t make gravy in one hour. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing here, trying to bring the old times back,â€ said Fountoukis.â€¨â€¨
Kanellosâ€™s Plaza Family Restaurant is open Monday to Friday, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Breakfast is available until 3 p.m. each day.
Large groups are encouraged to make reservations by calling (705) 235-2356.â€¨