smallcosta.pngOn a snowy December morning, I met up with my friend Amanda to enjoy the Fabergé breakfast I had long been craving. We sat by the window facing Fairmount Avenue, and watched the snow fall as we sipped our café au laits. What better way to spend a winter morning? We chatted over some French toast while we waited for Costa Darsaklis, co-owner of Fabergé. When he arrived, he made himself a latte and joined us at the table. He is the type of person who is always arriving from some kind of work or commitment, and when he leaves it is to head to another. Still, he made himself comfortable and happily answered my questions, as we discussed the restaurant business in Montreal, and his place in it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

When I asked him how he got into the restaurant business, the 27-year-old Montrealer replied, with no hesitation, that his first memory of the business goes back to his childhood. When he was just a boy, Costa would run food for his dad's small business. He remembers the cafeteria-style restaurant being located near Bleury Street, close to Place des Arts Metro, on the main floor of a building, downstairs from a fur manufacturer. His father would give him bags of food and Costa would deliver them to the furriers upstairs.

While in high school, Costa began working part-time at Moishes. The rich history and culture of Moishes, the famous steakhouse located on St. Laurent, has made it a Montreal staple. There, Costa worked as a side order cook and mostly as a bus boy. "Moishes, for me was an academy. It taught me all the basic steps of service. When you're wearing a tuxedo to bus tables, that's when you know it's serious." While working at Moishes, Costa also began working at Restaurant Le Blanc, as bar back.

After Moishes, Costa continued to work the Main as a bartender for two years. He then acquired his first job as a waiter, at Mythos. "Mythos, by the way, is by far where I made the most money." It is no surprise that the motivated waiter was making excellent tips at the reputable Greek restaurant. Of course this didn't stop Costa from pushing himself to do more. "For a while I did Mythos until closing and then drove to Chateguay for the breakfast shift." While going to school and working at Mythos, Costa was also working for his friend who owned a Chez Cora in Chateguay.

The next step was ownership. Costa's first partnership was Quoi de n'oeuf, a breakfast restaurant in St. Eustache. Busboy, side order cook, bar back, waiter, management, ownership - Costa had acquired and developed the business knowledge and service skills that would allow him to continue to move forward. After the partners of Quoi de n'oeuf went their separate ways, Costa continued to work in several restaurants and hotels, before making his way to Fabergé.

Costa began brainstorming with his friend Devin, who worked with him at Mythos for a short while. Devin, his brother Chaz and Costa would soon become the three pillars of the successful project, Fabergé. For the first time, Costa would be creating his own menu; both a challenging and exciting task. The original Faberge menu had clients and critics raving; from Clin d'Oeil to Chatelaine to Nightlife Magazine, everyone was talking eggs and fluffy pancakes. Costa's menu was a mash up of ideas from his previous breakfast restaurant and the dishes that were most liked by clients during his previous experiences, all with his own personal spin. However, despite the crazy amount of hours that he has spent in the kitchen at Fabergé, he much more prefers working the front of the house. "Working in the kitchen is so much more hazardous, the fumes alone are enough to make someone go crazy. There's a lot more stress that comes with working in the kitchen as well."

As we're sitting in Fabergé, Costa looks around and takes himself back to the first time he saw the space. "Devin found this location. We weren't sure if it was worth all the work, it was completely empty, we had to gut the building and do it all from scratch." When I asked what role the neighbourhood played in choosing the space for a brunch spot, Costa discussed that the booming district of the Mile End was a definite interest from the start. The men worked with designers Howie Dewitt and Philip Legris, who are well known in Montreal and whose work was sure to be appreciated by the more "artsy neighborhood." However, when conceptualizing Fabergé, Costa says, "the most important thing was to create a space where a woman can walk in by herself and feel comfortable." They also wanted it to be a place that would cater to the young families in the area. Even more, an alcohol permit allowed them to offer morning cocktails and even host private parties. It almost seems impossible for a single space to be able to successfully pull off all these different functions. Is it a breakfast restaurant? A lounge? A party place? A family place? Well, oddly enough the answer really is all of the above.

This shouldn't be very shocking since Costa is a very "all of the above" kind of person. "I don't like to keep all my eggs in one basket, I like to keep busy and keep challenging myself." It isn't unusual to find him waiting tables on the Main during the busy summer nights. "You could put me anywhere and I know how to serve, it'll take me a couple of minutes to adjust and feel the place out, but I can serve without knowing the menu or anything," says the Fabergé co-owner. It is difficult to think he would ever see himself in another industry, but I ask anyways. He casually says, "the restaurant business for me isn't like a job, it's a way to make money while doing something I enjoy."

Costa's ability to balance the creative and sociable aspects that come with the restaurant industry with the necessary business element allows him to remain motivated and focused. He has big dreams, and admits he is far from where he wants his life to be but still "closer than I was before." His dream is to not have to work past his thirties. He'd like to own a couple of businesses and have them run successfully. "My ideal situation is to be able to one day, when I retire, be able to walk into one of my restaurants, sit down, enjoy a good meal without anyone knowing who I am, and just sit back and watch it function."

In a city like Montreal where the restaurant industry is so closely linked with the nightlife and party culture, it is relatively rare to meet someone like Costa who speaks with knowledge beyond his years. Even as a teenager, he always worked with a business focus. He has continuously learned from the industry and will undoubtedly continue to contribute to it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Visit our community forum!


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.