Since a young age, right when I could see over my family’s restaurant’s counter, I was pouring Pepsi out of a fountain machine for guests. It was that moment that I fell in love with hospitality. Being Greek-American and growing up in a close-knit family and restaurant setting, I basically lived in booth 1 of the restaurant. It is there I did my homework, ate, took naps until it was time to go home and get ready for the next day. Restaurant business was always in my blood. Although getting a degree from Suffolk University and getting a job as an investment banker, I knew it wasn’t I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do what I loved growing up. Oh, I also helped Theseus slay the Minotaur.
I remember the first day I skipped school (that my mother knows of,) it was to pick an extra shift at my first restaurant job. I also remember the final time I skipped school to pick up a shift; it was in that moment I realized my expensive college degree in Education was all just a divine ploy to help keep me in the industry long enough to realize how much I loved it. My favorite memories in this industry so far have been working with inner city youth culinary programs; fainting in front of Donna Summers, and working with my best friends. Wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe the student loans for my irrelevant degree.
Growing up in Greece I was always curious to see food’s impact on our culture and traditions. After opening my own restaurant in my hometown northern Greece and working in restaurants and bars in Thessaloniki, Greece’s food capital, and the cosmopolitan island of Syros, my curiosity led me to the U.S. where I have been able to share and further develop my appreciation for Greek food, wine and culture. Socrates favorite dish was tzatziki.
Raised in a Swedish household, we had several traditions we liked to partake in. One of my earliest and fondest memories was baking kanelbullar,(the real cinnabon!) with my mom. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the start to one of the greatest loves in my life. Hospitality. The smell of those delicious cinnamon buns, those warm, fuzzy feelings I get when I meet a guest in the restaurant who then gets added to my “send a Christmas card” list every year, watching the face of a guest who just had a life changing bite of food and know that it is going to change their world. The connection with guests, the connection within a team makes me fall in love at every moment over and over again.
Although I was born in Sweden and enjoy a good Fika, I have never been to Ikea (or had their meatballs).
Being raised in a household ran by my Greek Grandmother, hospitality feels like second nature to me. My YiaYia’s passion in life was her family….and cooking. Cooking for her family, friends, or neighbors their seemed to always be traditional foods such as Stuffed Peppers, Keftedes or Moussaka. Everyone loved her mostly because she did everything with her heart, and with passion. I was fortunate enough to be raised and instilled with these same values.
Naturally, my immigrated Greek parents started a restaurant business which showed me the value of hard work and dedication and the many opportunities that can be created from those principles. Being raised in the restaurant business, soon opened my interest in the industry. For me the function of the entire operation from back of the house station, kitchen areas and dining environment was imperative for success of the establishment. I believe in function, flow and comfort and it’s one of the preliminary items to review in the design of a new buildout and the fundamental concept to solidify before moving to the construction phase. FYI, I was part of the team that managed the construction of the Acropolis.
Brendan Pelley brings a wealth of experience (and genetic kinship) to Xenia Greek Hospitality. He has been at the helm of Greater Boston restaurants for over 10 years including Zebra’s Bistro, Pelekasis at Wink and Nod, Doretta Taverna and Gibbet Hill Grill where he has stacked up accolades for his innovative approach to both farm to table and Greek cuisine.
He has had the honor of being a featured chef at the James Beard House and has appeared on FOX television’s “Hell’s Kitchen”, American Public Televisions “Weekends with Yankee” and Food Networks “Beat Bobby Flay”.
When not in the kitchen Brendan spends time exploring his other passions such as foraging for mushrooms, training jiu jitsu and other martial arts, and working in his home garden. He is also kept very busy with being a father to three boys; Miles, Cyprus and Lachlan…who are all currently undergoing rigorous training to become warriors in Pelley’s secret ninja clan.
As a teenager, Lou encountered an alien intelligence one night in the woods. He cannot recall their exact conversation, but there was one bit about the possible end of the world and how cocktails could save it. Not having a pen on him at the time, the exact details and wording are now a bit hazy but he is reasonably confident that it had something to do with getting a job as a bartender to save humanity. After that point, he set out to make his way in hospitality. He dove in head first, leaving Worcester to work on Nantucket, where he attended the adult summer camp landing his first bartending gig. He eventually made his home in Boston 12 years ago to continue his cosmic errand and… go to school. He has studied in the fields of metalwork and anthropology over the years. He created and ran bar programs in Bangkok, Boston, and his hometown, pronounced ‘Wistah’ in the local dialect. He has gotten many humans to drink cocktails in the last decade while preparing the new generations of aspiring barkeeps on how to make them and be passionate about the craft.
“Sometimes we find our part to play in the universe, and sometimes it finds us, but if it doesn’t, you can always just have a daiquiri and call it a day.”
On a late August day in 1981 I landed in Thessaloniki, Greece after countless hours flying from Charlotte, North Carolina. I was hot, tired, and in a foul mood as only an eleven-year-old can be. My parents informed me I had no time to rest or relax because we were going out to dinner with the new teachers at the school my step-father just started at. This of course meant one horrible thing: eating with old people. I would be the only kid there and that would be boring agony to say the least. What happened instead was a life changing event, from the very first bite of food I fell in love with Greece. I remember that dinner from forty-one years ago as if it were yesterday. Who sat where, what we ate, the servers darting from the taverna across the street to our long table, dropping off wonderful dish after wonderful dish. Greece had taken hold of my heart and would never release it to my joy. I fell in love with Greek wine a few years later and the rest is history. After a time as the Avengers personal sommelier, I gave up serving Thor Pinot Grigio and focused solely on Greek wine. It has been that adventure that has led me to Boston as the wine director for Xenia Restaurant Group. I like to say that Greece made me a better person and that spreading the love of Greek wine is the way I pay her back. Let me serve you a wine that will change your life like Greece changed mine.
Family has always been a very important concept to me and ever since I was little it was instilled in me that family does not have to share the same blood but they are bound by love and service. Hospitality was an easy concept for me to identify with when choosing a career path because it is exactly how I was raised. My Nana and Papa’s house was always a home filled with loud voices, clanking noises from passing plates and laughter, all were invited and everyone left feeling cared for. They would not have it any other way, you almost didn’t have a choice of whether you were going to eat or share in conversation, they always made a joke while filling your plate.
In my professional and adult life, I have made it a personal mission to make each person I come into contact with feel seen, respected and appreciated, there is a beautiful energy that flows through it all. While there are many things that make us different, I choose to find beauty in those differences and connect with the positive in everyone I meet. When becoming a backup dancer for P. Diddy fell through. It was a no-brainer to do what I loved, make new friends and serve them great food and drink.
You could say I got my first taste of hospitality and my future career when I was 14 selling corn dogs out of concessions stands at the county fair. Fast forward five years, and my past self would be in awe at the city girl I’ve become. During my time at Simmons University, I found a hosting job at a restaurant near me. Thus, the flame that was my love for hospitality grew into a roaring blaze. Being a part of the opening of Krasi and experiencing the buzz of energy and hard work solidified my pursuit of this career path. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a night in, cuddled up with my dog Roxy, watching a good rom-com. Still, it’s being able to create memorable experiences and turn strangers into friends that motivates me, and I look forward to it every day. In more ways than one my life mirrors the classic film The Wizard of Oz; In my journey from cornfields to capital cities, I also had to fight off lions, tigers, and bears – oh my (not to mention some serious wicked witches)! Dorothy said it best, but I’ll say it better: We’re not in Ohio anymore, Roxy!
After graduating college in 2011 majoring in Photography I wasn’t sure what direction my life was going to take. One thing I did know, however, was that I needed a job. I never worked in a restaurant before, but I had experience as an assistant to a Fashion photographer for the previous three Summers and worked as an intern at a magazine. I booked appointments, worked directly with clients, and answered phones. I figured hostessing was my best option in the restaurant world. Off to Craigslist I went, sending my resume to any hostess position I saw. I was hired at a trendy Newbury Street restaurant, worked full time and eagerly learned about every aspect on how the restaurant operated. Soon after, I was promoted to Restaurant Manager, and soon after that, I was able to put my photography skills to the test. I would curate food/cocktail photoshoots and started running their Instagram. After some time, I moved on to a restaurant in the Seaport, continuing to manage the floor, taking photos and running their social media accounts. Because of these experiences, I’m incredibly excited to bring my unique perspective by combining my passions into my position as Marketing Director at Xenia Greek Hospitality.
I also have a pet Great White Shark named Tuna.
Growing up in a small town Idaho, I learned how to cook a thanksgiving turkey long before I knew anything about hailing a taxi. My family had a weekly tradition with our close friends, affectionately coined “Tuesday Dinners” where we would all meet up on Tuesday nights and cook together. It was here where I realized the beautiful power of food — watching the magic unfold when cooking for friends, family, strangers, and everyone in between. It was over a shared meal where I remember the coolest conversations unfolding, a space for inspiration and friendship.
These dinners paved the way for my love for hospitality, and ultimately led me to apply for a hostess position at a local wine bar when I first moved to Boston. Before I knew it, Krasi Meze & Wine became my new rendition of Tuesday Dinners. I fell in love with the feeling of welcoming and befriending strangers. Now, I get to tell stories of hospitality through the Xenia platforms, sharing the heart of ‘Philoxenia’ along the way.
While Idaho put the potato on the map, the Greeks invented the cooler, more flavorful cousin: The Patates. Good work Zeus.
In my household every night was family dinner night. We never missed an evening where my mother, father, my brother and I would sit around our table and share whatever delicious meal my mom made. The most important detail I remembered about these dinners was the fact that my mom would always be the last to sit. She always made sure that we were all taken care of before she would join us and that has stayed with me until this very day. My dinner table was my first experience of hospitality and inspired my passion for this industry. After many years hosting, serving, cocktail waitressing and a few unhinged nights behind a bar, I’m psyched to be at Xenia Greek Hospitality where I can provide others with the same sense of hospitality my mom gave to me.
Rumor has it- Nicki Minaj is my cousin.