John Tsintaris was born to cook.
The owner and head chef of Grill on the Green, Elmira Golf Club’s new restaurant, comes from a family of “serial entrepreneurs,” who have operated numerous restaurants including Harvest Moon in St. Jacobs.“I’ve grown up in the industry my whole life, so it just seemed like such a natural fit for me once I decided to choose a career path,” Tsintaris said. “I can remember as far back as being nine or 10 years old, when we had Frieda’s Place in Cambridge. It was always where you help out as much as you can.”
Like so many aspiring chefs, Tsintaris started out washing dishes.
“We had an under-counter dishwasher, and I was tall enough that (my parents) were always like ‘hey, go load the dishwasher, or go unload the dishwasher.’ I started that young.”
The passion for food grew as he got older.
“I remember being 17 years old and graduating high school and at that time I was cooking at my parent’s restaurant and I decided that that was the path I wanted to take, so I just got more and more into the kitchen and the cooking aspect.”
In July 2005, Tsintaris opened the Grill Burger Kitchen in Waterloo, a quick service restaurant that specializes in homemade burgers, hand-cut fries and hand-dipped onion rings. While the venture has been a success, with an additional location in Kitchener opening in 2011, Tsintaris was eager to get back into a full-service role.
“The quick service is great, it’s just as a chef, you want to do the nicer things,” he said. “Family dining and golf course dining gives you the freedom to create and have fun with food again.”
Tsintaris describes the mantra of the restaurant as “fresh is best,” adding that “we do as many things local as we can.”
These are lessons handed down from parents Andy and Frieda, who still keep a close eye on their son.
“My father is the typical Greek entrepreneur who work, work, works,” Tsnitaris said. “Even in retirement, he is literally here everyday. He can’t sit still, it’s in his genes. I love it.”
He attributes his outgoing “people person” nature to his mother.
“I love interacting with people everyday. In this restaurant, I do have four other chefs in the back so I am able to come out, talk to the customers and socialize. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of members here and a lot of locals. It’s funny because a lot of locals still remember me from Harvest Moon. Random people will recognize me and be like ‘hey, you’re Frieda’s son.’ Their legacy still lives on.”
When Tsintaris is back in the kitchen, he relies on wife Dina to look after the front of the house.
“Having her here has been great, knowing that you have someone who cares as much as you do working out front,” he said.
For her part, Dina Tsnitaris loves working in Elmira.
“The environment is so welcoming. It’s fun, we get great groups of people coming through. We’ve had great feedback from our customers; everyone loves the food and the service. We’re going in the right direction.”