Point Edward chef has steaked out his turf

Steve Economou has been perfecting the art of steak grilling for more than 40 years. He is now owner of The Open Grill Steakhouse in Point Edward. Cathy Dobson

Steve Economou seems like a shy man until you ask him about how to cook a really great steak.

That’s when he warms to the subject.

“It’s all about the cut of meat,” says the chef who has been cooking steak in Sarnia and Point Edward for 42 years.

“Not everyone likes the same. A ribeye has a lot more marbling and more flavour.

“Filet mignon is the most tender but it’s totally lean and very tasty.”  It’s his personal favourite.

The other secret to good steak is aging. Steak should be aged at least 21 days before it’s sliced.

“And you have to have consistent heat for grilling so it comes out nice and juicy and tender.”

At Economou’s restaurant, The Open Grill Steakhouse, customers can see the grill from the dining room.

Economou recommends briquettes, not gas.

“We put in a gas grill at first and then changed to briquettes because gas takes a lot of the flavour away,” he said.

It’s been a decade since Economou and his wife, Georgia, opened The Open Grill at the corner of Front and Lite streets in Point Edward.

They marked their 10th year by closing for a month this spring and renovating their 200-seat restaurant, adding a lounge and redecorating the entire dining room.

Prior to The Open Grill, Economou was a partner at The Chipican, and before that at the Gateway Restaurant – where it all started for him in 1972.

He had arrived from his homeland in Greece in 1968 and joined relatives in Sarnia.

“There were not a lot of jobs in Greece at the time and a lot of people left,” he said.

He was 20 with no real work experience. On a trip to Jasper, Economou washed dishes for a friend who owned a motel and small restaurant.

“He told me I’d be cooking in a month’s time and I was,” he said.

But winter in the mountains wasn’t to his liking and he returned to Sarnia to look for a restaurant investment.

At 25, he and two partners bought the Gateway Restaurant near the Blue Water Bridge and immediately changed the name to the Gateway Steakhouse.

Why steak?

“I don’t deny the other dishes,” he said. “But everyone likes steak.

“At one time, they called Sarnia ‘Beef Town’ because this is where you get good steak.”

 – Cathy Dobson