For many, a big juicy burger exemplifies life’s simple pleasures, but news reports last month describing the cheap ammonia-treated fillers used in up to 70 percent of ground beef gave many shoppers and diners a wake-up call.
“We receive a lot of comments from customers who are happy that all of our ground beef is from Ranch Foods Direct,” says Jake Topakas, shown with his brother Telly. (The chicken, lamb and pork are all from Ranch Foods Direct too.)
Jake personally made the switch to buying the meat he eats at home from Ranch Foods Direct four years ago when he began to realize how much better eating clean, natural, healthy food made him feel. Since then, he and his wife have transitioned the restaurant to carry as much fresh, local, organic food as possible. The uproar over “pink slime,” the mechanically separated meat scraps approved by federal agencies for mixing into real ground burger meat, could inspire more people to question what they eat and whether to spend a little more for better quality, he says.
“I noticed the effect it had on my personality, energy level and my body, and ultimately my goal is to pass the benefits on to my customers as well.”
Local suppliers like Ranch Foods Direct and the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers make it easier than ever for restaurants to serve healthier food at more affordable prices, he adds.
Going back to the basics of healthy food and eating wasn’t the first revelatory experience that changed Jake’s life and career path.
Growing up in the diner business in Philadelphia, his dad often bought ingredients based on price and turned them into typical American dishes. But as Jake and his brother grew into adulthood, they became fascinated with their Greek heritage. “The culture we came from became very attractive to us,” he recalls. When they partnered on a restaurant in Colorado Springs, they discovered the public had a hunger for Greek food and ambiance too.
The Topakas were more than happy to oblige, digging back in the family’s past for recipes that are more than a hundred years old. They created a beautiful Mediterranean dining backdrop and festive atmosphere that immerses visitors in the Old World.
“We discovered people definitely wanted something different,” Jake says. Now they’re preparing to mark 15 years in business May 6 with a traditional Greek festival, called a Glendi. Opa! Stop by anytime during the party and pay at the door.