Yainni Akritidis wasn't always the superstar dealer of crepes he is today. After rising through the ranks of Le Petit Creperie (that's French for "the little creperie"), the now 33-year-old, crepe-guy extraordinaire bought his own cart. Best of all, it is called the Crepewalk, and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.
You said your sign was misprinted this morning?
My English isn't very good so I use a computer program that helps me write the sign. I talk into it. Probably from my accent it made chicken breast, chicken beast. The menu had like big yellow letters: 'Chicken Beast with vegetables,' and they like it. When I changed the sign, people were mad. They said, 'We like your chicken beast.' Someone told me they were sending it to Mr. Leno on late-night show.
Your wife says that you are fasting at present.
I'm Greek. We are Orthodox, so I am fasting for our Easter. My wife, she fasts for 40 days. I fast usually only for a week. I'm a carnivore.
Is it hard to fast while you are working around such good food?
No. Actually, I like my food, I love it, but after like 1000 crepes that taste the same ...
You don't eat crepes often?
Well, sometimes I skip the outside of the crepe and just eat the inside. It is part diet too. I'm getting fat. United States makes me fat.
When did you come to the US?
Five, six years ago. Actually, before I worked here I worked at a TV station. I was a graphics designer for 12 years. I'm a Photoshop master. Then 3-D graphics, video montage, sound engineering - I used to play electronic music, dance, trance ... tuba-dooba! When I came here I was trying to find that kind of job, but it's kind of hard without papers, without diploma. My father-in-law had a cheesesteak cart, so I started working on that.
Crepes, not cheese steaks? I've got a steak crepe. Crepes are different. I helped open the other one, the one by the gym, Le Petit Creperie. I was working for a year over there. It was a cheesesteak cart that made crepes. I told Andreas, I said, 'Throw everything else away. Just make crepes.' And that was a successful story over there. Andreas left his location, and I wanted to do the same thing. A spot opened up here, and I took it.
Do you eat from the other food carts?
Sure, when I'm hungry. Thing is, around here everybody is friendly. In other places I try to order a grandfather's chicken and they look at me with suspicion, like, 'Are you going to steal our recipe?' I'm like, 'I just want to eat!'
You seem very animated. Do you have any funny stories about working in a cart?
I'm a funny guy. I like to talk to people a lot. I like to express myself. I don't much care what other people think about me. That's who I am, and if you like me, take me. If not, eh. We talk a lot and well, at the other cart, there were just two guys working there. Oh, do you like that? Like her? Ohhh yeah. We're talking in Greek. It's like us, two feet away. One day a lady talked back in Greek. I turned from red, to blue, to yellow -- every color you could imagine. I was trying to excuse myself. Then I just said whatever. We never saw that girl again. It's okay, it was funny.
Pretty girls don't usually understand when you talk about them in Greek, right?
Actually, I'm married and I'm working with my wife. But, I'll talk to the ladies. I'm not flirting. I'm just saying what's true. Truth is good. I told my wife I'm doing it as a fact. I love you, but when we do business we have to talk, and we have to be ourselves. Even my wife can talk to the guys. Sometimes I'm like, 'Anybody says anything to my wife ....' Funny story, though.
Can you tell me?
Sometimes customers are not picky, but people come last and expect to come first. 'Is mine ready yet? Is mine ready yet?' Sometimes I yell in Greek, like, 'What the malachas?' In the end, I say, 'Thank you.' It's not pretend. Everything in the job is hard and frustrating. It can easily take you over, but it's easy to forget too. One day, on the other cart, one guy pissed me off so much, so fast, that I jumped out and grabbed him by the neck.
Really? Did he steal from you?
No, he didn't steal from me. He asked me for a sausage. So I said, 'OK.' With mustard. I say, 'OK.' Wrap it up in wax paper, put it in a bag, give it to him. 'May I have some ketchup?' Take everything out of there, put some ketchup ... same procedure. 'Can I have some relish?' I thought, 'OK, I'll do it. Be calm.' He did that like four times and just started laughing, and I didn't laugh at all. So I jump out and without knowing him, guy was a lot bigger than me, I told him, 'Next time you're gonna hit the ground.'
What did he do?
He had his mom next to him. [She said], 'Don't threaten my boy!' I said to myself, 'That's not a boy, that's a gorilla! I yelled a little bit. People always ask, and I say, 'No, I've never done this before.' So, I just jump back in the cart. 'Next.' That was the worst it got. I'm not a violent guy, but sometimes I am violent. Even the best dog, if you push his tail, he's going to bite you.
It's the truth.
Sometimes I say things and people just believe me. One time I said, 'You want chicken? With feathers or without them?' I make fun of them, and the people believe me: 'What kind of feathers?' Some people really trust you. One day I told a woman, just for fun, and it was $4, '$15.' She said, 'OK.' I'm like, 'What the hell are you doing? Open your eyes! Wake up!' I blame TV for everything! For making people kinda stupid.