Halifax restaurateur who pioneered city's slow food scene dies at 59

Leo Christakos was always trying something new. 

From opening a high-end burger joint in Gus' Pub to introducing Halifax to the slow food movement, he's being remembered as someone who was committed to local food and to his family.

The long-time Halifax restaurateur died suddenly, reportedly of a heart attack, on Dec. 1. He was 59.

"Being a leader in the restaurant world, being a charming and committed person to all of his guests, I think will be a legacy that we'll hear about as time goes by," Michael Howell, executive director of Devour! The Food Film Fest and a friend of Christakos's, told CBC's Information Morning

Christakos and his son George Christakos opened The Brooklyn Warehouse on Windsor Street about 15 years ago, back when the idea of slow food was still a novel concept. 

They were among the first restaurants in Nova Scotia to start celebrating chefs and farmers, and encouraging diners to think about where their food comes from, Howell said. 

"They really relied on small farmers, small people to celebrate the foods of Nova Scotia whether it was from the sea or from the land," he said. 

Christakos's parents immigrated to Canada from Greece in 1956, and Howell said his friend was deeply committed to the city's Greek community. The Christakos family was a big part of the city's annual Greek Festival for many years.

An 'unbelievably charming man'

The restaurant business was in his blood. 

Christakos began working in his family's popular restaurants, Zapatas and Pepe's, in the 1970s and 1980s, and went on to own The PaperChase Newstand & Cafe, The Brooklyn Warehouse, Ace Burger Co., and Battery Park Beerbar & Eatery, according to his obituary.

Howell, his friend of 17 years, calls him an "unbelievably charming man with a twinkle in his eye all the time, and generally some kind of fun bon mot on his lips."

Christakos loved to travel, especially on his motorcycle and it wasn't unheard of for him to arrive at an event dressed in his chaps and leather, Howell said with a laugh.

His travel companion was often his son George, who was also his business partner.

"I felt that it was more than just a father and son relationship," Howell said. "It really felt like they were two of the best friends ever."

A funeral service for Christakos is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday at St. George's Greek Orthodox Church.