I was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec, lived there a few months, before my Latvian-born father - my last name is pronounced “eh-kiss” - moved the family to his next Canadian military posting, chilly Cold Lake, Alberta. From there we moved on to Winnipeg, Moose Jaw and the Northwestern Ontario town of Sioux Lookout, where, as a teenager, I began my cooking career as a civilian kitchen helper on the base.
You might not think working at a military base would provide me the opportunity to learn about fine cooking, but mentoring me there was Sandy Wong, one of the best cooks I’ve ever met. At work he taught me how to cook such things as the perfect roast beef, omelette and creamy mushroom soup. At gatherings at his home, he introduced me to a wide range of a Chinese dishes made from authentic ingredients he brought in from afar. Sandy really got me interested in cooking and encouraged me to go to cooking school. I did that in Ontario at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, and Sault College in Sault Ste Marie, working as a chef’s apprentice in a hotel in the former city when not at school.
When I finished my cook’s apprenticeship and achieved my red seal certification, I moved to Toronto to broaden my culinary horizons. I worked at the Four Seasons Inn on the Park and then, at age 24, was hired as head chef of a busy northern Italian restaurant called It’s Magic. I had success there; a Toronto Star restaurant reviewer called me “a true magician.”
After It’s Magic, I worked a summer in Bermuda and then became chef of Toronto’s National Ballet School. While working there, I took evening classes at George Brown College and became a certified pastry chef. I also owned a small catering company that supplied gourmet meals to finance executives.
In 1992, tired of big city life, my wife, Cheryl, also a chef, our son Tyler, and I moved to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, which has been home ever since. I worked as chef my first five years here, achieving a certificate in business administration at the University of Victoria while doing so.
In 1997, my life changed when the position of food writer, something I dreamt about doing, came open at the Victoria Times Colonist. Dozens of people applied, but I landed the position because of my diverse culinary background and education. I was ecstatic, because I knew that this kind of work could lead to other things, such as publishing cookbooks, of which you can see on this website now number eight. In 2014, because of my accomplishments since becoming a food writer and author, I was awarded an Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Victoria.
My recipe-rich columns also appear in other Canadian newspapers and online at www.canada.com. When I’m not writing about food and creating cookbooks, I work as a food consultant, under the banner of Akis Consulting, providing services such as food styling, cooking demonstrations and recipe development. One of my main clients is Thrifty Foods, a highly regarded, West Coast supermarket chain that I have created over 2500 recipes for.
As for where I get all my recipe ideas, well, I just love to cook, read about food, talk to cooks and chefs of all stripes, travel and, of course, eat well. If you do all these things, you too will bubble over with new ideas on what to cook.