Vasily Deris grew up with a respect for good food and great hospitality.
"My parents have run many restaurants," said Deris, a resident of Homer Glenn, Ill.
The actor/singer is currently starring in "Smokey Joe's Cafe - The Songs of Leiber & Stoller," running through May 26 at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre in Chicago. FYI: Call (312) 988-9000 or visit SmokeyJoesCafeChicago.com
Deris said he often helps his family at some of their restaurants. His brother runs Theo's in Highland, his father Ted operates Ted's Family Restaurant in Calumet City and his family also runs Amore in Crown Point.
"I try to help out as much as I can," said Deris, adding his performance schedule often doesn't allow for him to work in the eateries. "I owe it to my family for giving me the opportunity to be able to perform," he said.
Guests, however, will often find him working at Ted's several nights a week and sometimes on weekends when it's possible. He doesn't man the kitchen in the eatery, however. But he does come up with special deals and all-you-can eat specials at the business.
Deris, who grew up enjoying many Greek specialties, said when he cooks he likes "to get creative with spices." Among favorite Greek recipes are simple favorites such as chicken, lamb and potatoes.
The actor said he's also a breakfast fan and likes to make omelets, biscuits and other egg dishes. Deris said the current cast members of Smokey Joe's are avid foodies.
"We all like to cook. I've never been in a cast before where we all have such a connection to cooking," he said. It's not unusual for the cast members to have pot lucks in between shows and share recipes.
Deris is the son of Toula and Ted Klideris.
The following is one of Deris' favorite recipes.
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey (whatever you prefer)
6 whole pieces of garlic, chopped up fine
1 onion, chopped up fine
Salt and Pepper
All Spice ( I prefer McCormick brand)
Cinnamon, very little
Fresh Dill (half a bunch)
6 ounces rice, uncooked
Olive Oil, very little
1 small can tomato sauce
DIRECTIONS: Take tomatoes and cut the tops of them off and place the tops on the side to cover them after you have stuffed them. Take the insides out and place those in a separate bowl for later use after you are done stuffing (a little trick to keep tomatoes moist while cooking). Put tomatoes in a row in a cooking pan and line them up. Mix above ingredients all together in a bowl and mix it well. I can't tell you exactly how much of each ingredient because my grandma taught me to just cook with what you feel. Go with your instincts and I bet it will be right. Now that everything is mixed together take your empty tomato and fill it up with your ingredients. Put the tops back on and now your tomatoes are stuffed. Now a trick to keep your tomatoes juicy while cooking. Take your insides of the tomato that you put in a separate bowl and chop the insides up. After it is all chopped up, add some olive oil, salt and pepper and a little water and mix it all up. Now you take all that and pour it over your tomatoes to keep them moist while cooking and it will also help your tomatoes to not stick. Now cover your tomatoes with foil and cook for an hour on 350 then after an hour take foil off and cook tomatoes until they turn a little brown. So watch the tomatoes after the hour and the foil comes off. So then pull them out and let stand for a little. Then enjoy! My grandma is passed now. She was my main cook growing up and she was my main supporter in the arts and always pushed me. By cooking this specific dish it gives me a huge rush of nostalgia and makes me remember how awesome of a relationship we had and her cooking is way better than mine. ENJOY!