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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

< Back to Oral History project: Greek Restaurateurs in Birmingham

ORAL HISTORY

John Calamas


Owned by John Calamas, Yanni’s, which closed in 2004, was located in upscale Vestavia Hills. It was a modern addition to the city’s long history of Greek-owned restaurants. Calamas was born in Birmingham. He has fond memories of his grandfather and uncle, who were both in the food business. Food and Greek ingredients were in his blood.

Calamas got his feet wet in the restaurant business in extremes. He got his start at Sneaky Pete’s Hot Dogs as a young man. He went on to work with Frank Stitt at the acclaimed Highlands Bar & Grill. Before opening Yanni’s, John had Justin’s, which was a casual steak and seafood restaurant. He was forced to relocate and the result was Yanni’s. John says he likes infusing Greek ingredients into just about everything, and with things on the menu like champagne poached salmon egg rolls with tzaziki sauce and feta grits, there is no denying the Greek influence.

Date of interview:
2004-03-10 14:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans

Photographer:
Amy Evans

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