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Rockdell Steak House celebrates 45 years family-owned

Owner and cook Tom Tesseris says he started at the bottom and climbed one stair at a time

In an era where restaurants come and go, one family-owned establishment has defied the odds and celebrated its 45th anniversary this year. 

Tom Tesseris, along with his late wife, Maria and their four daughters, own and have operated the Rockdell Steak House on Beachwood Road since 1978.

Tesseris, who was born in Greece, immigrated to Canada in 1968 in search of a better life. He spent his early years in Toronto working as a dishwasher but soon realized that smaller towns offered more opportunities in the restaurant business.

He hopped from Midland to Hanover to Owen Sound, working in various restaurants, before he settled in South Georgian Bay and purchased what was then a deli, transforming it into the steakhouse.

The region has changed significantly over the years, but Rockdell has remained a constant presence, serving as a testament to the enduring values of hard work, family, and culinary excellence. 

“The restaurant business is good business, but it takes a lot of love,” said Tesseris. “Like any business, you have to stay on top of it or you won’t last 45 years.”

The restaurant initially had 52 seats, but in 1998, 20 years after he opened the doors, Tesseris expanded and upgraded the establishment, increasing its capacity to 140 seats.

Steak is the specialty at Rockdell, and Tesseris is renowned for his meat platters. Patrons can also enjoy veal cutlets, liver and onions, cabbage rolls, spaghetti sauce, and Caesar dressing, all prepared by hand with love. The coconut cream pie is a customer favourite.

“Food is the language of love, he is a good cook,” said his daughter, Ria Findlay. 

Even at the age of 78, Tesseris remains a fixture in the kitchen, and his family members have been an integral part of the restaurant's success since its inception. One daughter manages the front of house and Tesseris’ grandson has been helping him out as his right-hand man in the kitchen for almost three years now. 

“He’s learning the ropes,” said Findlay. 

When it comes to advice for aspiring restaurateurs, Tesseris emphasizes the importance of starting from the bottom, working hard, and maintaining honesty and integrity throughout the journey. 

“If you have to climb 20 stairs you can’t go all at once. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up one by one,” he said. 

He and his wife, who was by his side during the restaurant's early years, instilled these values in their children and grandchildren, many of whom have worked at the restaurant and developed strong work ethics.

And it shows. Rockdell Steak House has become a cherished part of the community, with a loyal following of regular patrons who appreciate the commitment to quality and authenticity. 

“The regulars have been coming for years, they keep it going,” Tesseris said. “I stick with the quality, I don’t cut corners.”

Tesseris hopes to see the restaurant continue to thrive long after he is gone, ensuring that it remains a warm and welcoming place for families and friends to enjoy delicious food and create lasting memories.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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