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Michael Birurakis catering after closing Best of Crete

By Judy Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Michael Birurakis, fresh from a six-month sabbatical, has begun a new chapter in his life. The fit 52-year-old has entered a phase where he is not ruled by the clock, a watch or the posted business hours of an "open" sign.

He has started a catering business at 816 Beech Ave., where he controls his time.

"I'm going for a bike ride with a friend as soon as this interview is over," he said with a ready smile. During the break, he said he traveled and got caught up on "Mike stuff."

Birurakis is the former co-owner of the popular Best of Crete restaurant at the Charleston Town Center Mall which closed Feb. 28 after nearly 30 years in business.

The industrious former Marshall University and West Virginia University football player began working when he was 12, delivering Charleston newspapers. He earned enough to pay for a trip to Greece when he was 15, beginning a lifelong love of travel, something he rarely had time for during his restaurant tenure. He said his only child graduated from college last year and is working, giving him some additional financial freedom.

"A lot of people would like for me to reopen the deli or a restaurant, but I was working 70 hours a week there. It was a very demanding thing. I did it for 20 years. I was on call all the time. It was rewarding, and I miss the customers, but it was confining. I like not having to put that key in the door at 7 a.m. It's not all about money," Birurakis said.

"It can consume you. People would say, 'Do you own the Best of Crete?' I'd say, 'No, It owns me.' This is a new chapter in my life. I started catering a couple of months ago. I'm not going to take on more than I can chew. I would rather do a good job for a few people than a so-so job for a lot of people," he said.

"I don't do individual orders, but I do orders for 10 or more people, offices and special occasions up to 100 people," he said.

Birurakis says he is handy and enjoys taking care of his family's rental property. He put his carpentry skills to work when he converted the former Best of Crete Deli at 816 Beech Ave. into a professional kitchen for his catering business.

The oven he uses for his catering business is the original one purchased for Best of Crete at the mall 30 years ago. "My mom said, 'There's a lot of magic in that oven.' My mom helps me some. These are all her recipes," Birurakis said.

His mother, Joann, and his father, Bill, live in the West Side hill neighborhood and Birurakis said that he sometimes picks them up to visit with him at the kitchen. His mother also comes by to lend a hand, something they have enjoyed together for decades.

His catering menu is very similar to the foods served at the Best of Crete restaurant. "I have a Facebook page with my catering menu. You can select as many entrees as you like, along with side [dishes], appetizers and desserts to be served buffet style. I can do anything I did at the mall. People can call me and tell me what they want and I can tell them what I can do," Birurakis said.

He said he needs a minimum of 24 hours' notice for a catering job.

His most popular entrees are gyros (beef/lamb and chicken wraps), baked chicken, moussaka (eggplant, potatoes, beef with cheese topping), pastitio (Greek lasagna), chicken kabobs, pork kabobs, meatballs and meatloaf. He offers as side dishes rice pilaf, Greek green beans, Greek salad and mashed potatoes. The deserts are baklava and wedding cookies.

One entree with two sides, hummus, pita bread and baklava costs $11.99 per person. Two entrees with two sides, hummus, pita bread and baklava cost $15.99 per person. Roasted leg of lamb and lamb kabobs are available at market price. He offers grape leaf rolls and spinach pies at $11.99 per dozen. A 15 percent delivery and tax are not included in the prices.

For additional information about his catering business, call Birurakis at 304-343-3292 or 304-343-3286.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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