Becoming a restaurant owner while still in 20s

MIKE CHRISTY TOOK over as owner and head chef of Spiro’s restaurant in downtown Iron Mountain at age 23. Four years later, he said the business continues to thrive. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Mike Christy started as a server at Spiro’s, hoping for a role in the kitchen.

By age 23, he was not just head chef but owner of the downtown Iron Mountain restaurant.

It was a quick shift for someone who came out of Iron Mountain High School in 2008 intending to study landscaping, which took him to Lansing Community College.

To help pay for his education, he got a job at Menna’s Joint, an East Lansing restaurant that specialized in grilled wrap sandwiches.

“I realized I was really good at it,” he said of preparing food, “and I liked doing it.”

When the college abruptly decided to close down the landscaping program, Christy returned to Iron Mountain with his sights set on a culinary career.

He was friends with the son and daughter of Spiro’s owner/chef Spiro Andreopoulos, so was able to land a position there, initially as a server, biding his time until a space opened in the kitchen.

It gave him the chance to train under an executive-level chef, learning on the job.

Christy apparently was a quick-enough study that after Andreopoulos became executive chef at Pine Grove Country Club, he suggested his understudy take over Spiro’s.

“It was basically too much for him,” Christy said.

So in 2014, Christy bought the business. As head chef, he’s retained most of the familiar Spiro’s favorites and Mediterranean influences but introduced some twists of his own.

Everything Spiro’s serves is made on site, with fresh ingredients, Christy said. He still prepares much of the food.

“It’s kind of like a quality thing,” he said of staying active on the kitchen side, “and I’m a chef; I love cooking.”

Spiro’s has about a dozen employees, though that can fluctuate during the winter season, when the restaurant doesn’t have the sidewalk seating available.

The outside tables and more upscale menu — a customer favorite is pan-sautéed tiger shrimp with lime beurre blanc, balsamic reduction, grilled polenta triangles and basil chiffonade — have drawn comments Spiro’s seems like a restaurant that would be in a more urban setting than Iron Mountain, Christy said.

“We’re pretty unique to the area,” he said.

But he takes pride as well in Spiro’s offering eight different kinds of burgers and such comfort food as pretzels with beer dip.

Now 27, Christy said he has no plans to follow his former boss and mentor on to a bigger chef position. He has enough confidence in the business to recently invest in a new kitchen floor.

“Things are going really good,” he said.