Home CommentaryStudent Life ‘The holy man on the grill’ retires after almost 50 years at Cosmos

‘The holy man on the grill’ retires after almost 50 years at Cosmos

by Archives January 22, 2003

Tony Koulakis, better known as Captain Cholesterol, keeps going and going like the Energizer Bunny. At 66 years old, the owner of Cosmos Restaurant in Notre-Dame de Grace is talking retirement. However, Koulakis is always lured back to the greasy spoon and hot grill that have made him famous.

“When you work you don’t think you’re getting old,” says Koulakis while flipping two eggs and preparing bacon and sausage.

After emigrating from Greece in 1954, Koulakis turned an outwardly ordinary restaurant into a Montreal institution. Students, businessmen and lawyers from all over come to sample Tony’s famous breakfast and leave completely overwhelmed by the experience.

It’s no wonder they call him the “God of Potatoes.” He peels and cleans 1000 pounds of potatoes in his garage a week and with them cooks the most exceptional hash browns in town. “He’s the only one that makes potatoes that good,” says Jesse Vincent, a psychology student at Concordia. “It’s the best cure for a hang-over.”

“The restaurant business is a tough business,” adds Koulakis in a thick accent. “You have to be nice and serve nice so the customers could come again.” And that they most certainly do.

Clients start filing in as early as 7:30 a.m. and it’s not long before the 11 stools available are occupied and line-ups begin. “You get a lot for your money,” says Nancy Kneem, a 51 year old NDG resident and former social worker.

Cosmos is not for the calorie conscious. Koulakis’ specialty, the mish mash, which is a mix of four eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, salami, tomatoes, onions and cheese, contains a little over 1800 calories per portion. However, this is one of those occasions when it’s good to be bad.

“One meal at Tony’s and you’re good to go for the day,” says Morris Rosengarten, a managing director for a software company.

Captain Cholesterol isn’t only known for his tasty hash browns; he’s a celebrity. Man of Grease was a documentary directed by Ezra Soiferman and shown at The Montreal World Film Festival in 2000. It spoke about his life’s work and the legacy of dinner restaurants.

His devotion to his customers, love for his craft and simple joie-de-vivre were summed up in a 50 minute video but the memory of his tireless energy for his vocation will remain with his clients for a lifetime.

After officially retiring, Koulakis hopes to spend more time with his wife, go on more vacations and perhaps make a sequel to the documentary Man of Grease entitled The Holy Man on the Grill.

Cosmos is a family business where father, sons and daughter all work hard side by side to make sure customers remain satisfied. “We all got molded in the restaurant business; we are all entrepreneurs,” says Johnny Koulakis, the youngest son.

Johnny began working at Cosmos 15 years ago. Now, along with his two siblings, Nick and Nicki, he wants to take over the great establishment.

“I’m semi-retired,” Koulakis says. He still works the grill 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. “I still come to help the boys and slowly, slowly they will take over.”

“He’s passing on the spatula to the fruit of his loins; his sons and daughter,” says Rosengarten. “They will feed the next generation of Montrealers.”

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