10 Minutes with Aliki Serras


A liki Serras balances the demands of the restaurant industry with yoga, music and biking -- that is, when she can squeeze it all in during her 90-hour work weeks. In January, she became owner of Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie, the restaurant her father opened three decades ago. Serras says she had never planned to stay in the business she grew up in. Now that she’s there, she’s devoted to positioning Reel Seafood to reimagine itself for the future and survive the onslaught of chain restaurants. A renovated Reel Seafood is one sign of her progress.

Did you really grow up in the restaurant?
I remember being 8 and gluing oyster shells and clam shells to a bucket. I started hosting when I was 12 or 13. I definitely grew up in the restaurant.

Was it apparent that you would take over someday?
I always had in my mind that I wanted to be a translator. It became apparent that without a dialect of Arabic or Chinese, I wouldn’t be competitive. I was a Spanish major in college and also spoke Greek.

What was the moment you realized you weren’t going to be a translator?
I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and realized that what I had wasn’t unique. It was just a realization that it wasn’t a skill set that was going to propel me in that capacity. I had to revisit what I wanted to make a career out of. I don’t regret my language major. It enabled me to travel.

What did you consider doing as a career?
I’m a product of both of my parents. My mom is a Reiki master and sound-healer. Holistic nutrition has always been a hobby of mine. I explored the idea of attending a holistic nutrition school in Manhattan. The restaurant -- it clicks differently than anything I’ve really experienced. It’s so full-circle.

How so?
When I was little, my parents always had friends and family over. There were always people at our home. I remember being 9 years old and excited for Christmas, not because of the presents, but because we host Christmas dinner and it was the first year I was able to set the table by myself.
When I get disheartened, I connect to how I felt at 9. I feel that at 29 in the restaurant. That motivates me.

What’s your typical day like at Reel Seafood?
I’m here by 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. I come in, prep for lunch and greet people. We have a lull between two and three, where I get paperwork done, set up meetings with distributors and meet with our chef. I’ll work dinner hours.
Then business dictates when I leave. Saturday and Sunday is more of a reprieve. I have time in the afternoon, where I’ll go to the gym. I live on the bike path every weekend. It’s a little oasis. Then, I come back and work at night.

How was the transition from general manager to owner?
We made the decision that my father wouldn’t be present for the renovation and my first month as owner. He would have been a crutch. I needed to make decisions to rise to the occasion. There were moments where it was very overwhelming. Nothing could have prepared me for it.

What is your vision for the future of the restaurant?
The irony is that what I think will keep us relevant in the future is our connections to our roots. We’re the only independent restaurant on Wolf Road and one of a few restaurants owned by families across generations.

How’s the competition as the last independent on Wolf Road?
It’s two-fold. Against chains, it’s direct competition, especially at lunch when people have a finite period of time. There are also people who only support independent restaurants and there are a lot of choices. It’s part of the changing landscape.

Do you see yourself here in 10 years?
I’m excited for the future. Each day, I get more settled, and it proves to me that people appreciate we’re independent. I have 150 percent of my heart and soul involved. I’m not motivated by money. I know the importance of being profitable. I genuinely do this because I love the power of hospitality in its most unadulterated form.

Aliki Serras

Title: Owner, Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie
Age: 29
Resides: Guilderland
Family: Father, LeGrande Serras, owned Reel Seafood Co. for 30 years. Mother Arji Cakouros is a Reiki master and sound-healer.
Education: Attended Ithaca College, studied abroad in Granada, Spain
Outside the restaurant:“I do consider myself to be an artist and music is my medium. ... I grew up playing piano. My mom has a beautiful baby grand. I’ll go over to play that.”

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