Here is part two of our interview with Elizabeth Gaitanis of Tastes of Greece in Laguna Niguel. For the first part, click here.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
HAVING TO TURN DOWN CUSTOMERS WHEN THE RESTAURANT IS FULL.
What should the last meal on Earth be? LEMON ROASTED CHICKEN WITH POTATOES.
Who's your hero, culinary or otherwise?
MY FATHER AND MOTHER, WHO STILL GUIDE AND ENCOURAGE ME; MY HUSBAND, WHO STANDS BY ME AND BELIEVES IN ME; AND MY DAUGHTERS, WHO LOOK UP TO ME.
Why did you open a restaurant in Laguna Niguel? It's not exactly known for its dining.
BECAUSE OF THE THIRST AND NEED FOR OUR KIND OF DINING EXPERIENCE.
Is there a big Greek community in Orange County to support you, or are diners mostly of non-Greek heritage?
THE GREEK COMMUNITY IS VERY SMALL, MOSTLY SECOND AND THIRD GENERATION. OUR CUSTOMERS ARE MOSTLY OF NON-GREEK HERITAGE BUT WITH SOME SORT OF EXPERIENCE WITH GREEK FOOD THROUGH TRAVEL OR FRIENDSHIP WITH GREEK FAMILIES.
Where do you get your Greek wines and chocolates from?
SOME ITEMS WE IMPORT OURSELVES, AND SOME PRODUCTS ARE PURCHASED FROM OUR GREEK DISTRIBUTORS LOCATED ON THE EAST COAST. THE ITEMS WE CARRY ARE VERY SPECIFICALLY CHOSEN AND NOT COMPROMISED FOR ALTERNATIVE BRANDS, WHICH MAY BE EASILY AVAILABLE OR LESS COSTLY.
What is the biggest misconception you think Americans have about Greek food? For too many of us, we think it's all about gyros, plate-breaking waiters and "Opah!"
GREEKS EAT EVERYTHING . . . ALL MEATS, POULTRY AND SEAFOOD. LAMB IS NOT THE ONLY MEAT WE EAT. WE CAN BE VEGAN AND VEGETERIAN, DEPENDING ON THE DAY OF THE WEEK OR TIME OF THE YEAR. THE VARIETY OF RECIPES THAT CAN BE PREPARED ARE ENDLESS. FLAVORS ARE NATURAL AND SIMPLE. WE DO NOT EAT BECAUSE WE "HAVE TO," BUT AS ENJOYMENT, A PLEASURE WITH A GOOD FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER . . . AND THEN WE MAY BREAK A PLATE TO EXPRESS OUR CONTENT AND SAY, "OPAH!"
What's more important to the Greek soul--olive oil or feta cheese?
BOTH, BUT WITHOUT FRESH BREAD AND OLIVES? IMPOSSIBLE.
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What dish would you tell newcomers to try first?
OUR GREEK SALAD, ACCOMPANIED BY ANY OTHER ITEM ON THE MENU.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
PHILOSOPHY--TRYING TO EARN A LIVING BY INTRODUCING TO OUR COMMUNITY MORE ASPECTS OF THE GREEK PHILOSOPHY OF LEADING A LESS STRESSFUL AND MORE ENJOYABLE LIFESTYLE.
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
LOVE WHAT YOU DO!
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
AFTER MY 23-YEAR REAL LIFE-EXPERIENCE OF LIVING IN GREECE, I PLAN TO CONTINUE TO CREATE AND INTRODUCE HEALTHY, FRESH MEALS FOR THE LAGUNA NIGUEL COMMUNITY WHILE SHARING AND INTRODUCING MORE WAYS TO ENJOY QUALITY TIME WITH LESS STRESS. EXPANSION WOULD BE A MUST.