Diners’ needs come first at Chef Nick’s Eatery
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent November 1, 2013 1:00PM
IF YOU GO
Chef Nick’s Eatery
10660 Randolph St.,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Updated: December 5, 2013 6:06AM
Putting past employment experience to the test was the motivation for Nick Liapes to open his new business, Chef Nick’s Eatery, last year in Winfield.
Accomodating diners has been key to success thus far, he said.
“Most of the items on the menu can be made gluten-free,” said Liapes, who owns the eatery with his wife Karen. “And we can accommodate customers in other ways as well.”
Crown Point residents Dora and Jason Leath recently stopped in to try the soups and were pleasantly surprised at the variety on the menu, as well as the new addition of freshly-made donuts each morning.
“A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant,” Jason Leath said. “It’s the little things that bring the people in, like the gluten-free food here. We don’t have a problem with (gluten), but many people we know, do.”
The food industry business has been in Liapes’s blood from a young age.
“I started at 12 years old at a local restaurant, doing various jobs. They saw I was serious and showed me everything — I wanted to learn how to cook,” he said. “I also was the first male student at Pierce Junior High School to take the home economics class.”
After graduation from Merrillville High School in 1980, the budding entrepreneur continued to work at restaurants while attending college, gaining not only practical experience in the kitchen, but paying attention to the other aspects of running a company — such as management and customer service.
Next, a degree in culinary arts from Northwest Institute in French Lick, Ind. sealed the deal that the ambitious young man would choose the food service industry as his life-long career.
That choice included not only on-the-job savvy through kitchens he worked in, but also led to a career as a delicatessen director for a chain of local food stores.
In that job, he developed recipes for salads and specialty items, learned what items were popular with customers and how they wanted to be treated when purchasing those products, and gained management experience.
The Liapes’s children Alexis, 12, and Lucas, 11, are now being exposed to the food industry at an early age.
“They help out with dishes, some prep work, and other small things,” Liapes said. “They seem to enjoy it.”
The dining room inside Chef Nick’s Eatery seats 45, with additional space in front of the building on a small patio.
Eighty percent of the menu is made from scratch, you can “build-your-own lasagna,” and children have their own menu. Seasonal specialties include pumpkin pies and cinnamon donuts.