NEW YORK – Greek and Italian-American chef Sophia Manatakis is 24 years old and a resident of Kinnelon, NJ. On Tuesday, March 21 at 10 PM she will appear on Food Network’s cooking competition show Chopped. Manatakis is the second Greek-American chef to take part in the popular show, following in the footsteps of recent winner Maria Petridis, chef and owner of Maria’s Mediterranean Seafood and Grill in Bayside.
Manatakis spoke with The National Herald about her upcoming appearance on the show and about her background in cooking and in the restaurant business.
“I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York City. My father opened Uncle Nick's Greek Cuisine 20 years ago, but unfortunately he passed away 4 years ago. I now run the kitchen and I am looking to open up my own restaurant by the end of the year,” Manatakis said.
She continued, “My father was born in Crete and moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. My grandfather Nick (the restaurant Uncle Nick’s was named after him) was a butcher and deli owner. Cooking is in my blood. I love to be creative and to compete in cooking competitions.”
In 2013, The National Herald wrote about Manatakis’ father, the late Tony Manatakis, who spoke about his background and his philosophy for running a restaurant. After attending high school, he worked at Rigas Florists in Richmond Hills, but decided to open a restaurant on Ninth Avenue and 51st Street.
He explained, “I was always watching my father cook, and my mother. In Greece, they had a couple of tavernas. In 1990, I realized there were few Greek restaurants in Manhattan. Most of them had moved to Astoria. Many Greeks were afraid to open up on the West Side because this was the Hell’s Kitchen area. The East Side was trendier at the time.”
Manatakis told TNH in the 2013 interview about his decision to close the restaurant on holidays and for a month vacation every year, “When I came into this business, I spoke to a very dear older Greek lady.
She said the restaurant business is great, but restaurateurs don’t have a life. I decided that it’s quality of life that counts. Don’t be afraid to take off. Some Greeks worry too much about money and go crazy if somebody robs a shrimp. If you’re going to be like that, then you don’t deserve to be in the business. It’s going to happen anyway. You have to enjoy your life.”
Though Tony Manatakis passed away in 2013, he already saw his daughter Sophia complete culinary school, becoming the third generation to carry on the family cooking tradition. She also continues the tradition of excellent Greek food at Uncle Nick’s as well.
Because of the nature of the show, Sophia was unable to provide details about the competition on Chopped or its outcome. When asked about the specific episode, she confirmed for TNH that, “Yes, the episode has been filmed.”
When asked if she was planning a big viewing party on the night the show is scheduled to air, she said, “I am not planning on having a big party, just friends and family over. I am going to serve them what I made in the episode, good or bad!”
We wish her the best of luck on the show and in all her endeavors.
Uncle Nick’s has two locations in Manhattan 747 9th Avenue and 382 8th Avenue, open Monday thru Friday for lunch from 11:30 AM to 4 PM and for dinner from 4 PM to 11 PM, and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 AM to 11 PM. More information on Uncle Nick’s is available online at www.unclenicksgreekcuisine.com. Sophia Manatakis competes on Food Network’s Chopped on Tuesday, March 21 at 10 PM ET/PT.