Q&A: Bill Kelamis
Savoy Restaurant founder's grandson reflects on the storied family business.
Four generations of the Kelamis family have played a role in the Savoy, 6033 S. Sheridan Road. It all began in 1910 when Nick Kelamis moved to the U.S. from Greece to create a better life for himself and his family. Today, Nick’s grandson, Bill Kelamis, and great-grandson, Evan Kelamis, run the ever-popular spot known for cinnamon rolls, big breakfasts and comfort food. Here’s what Bill has to say about the Savoy’s Tulsa tradition.
You have a long history in Tulsa. Why do you think the Savoy has stayed popular for so many years?
We work diligently to have high-quality food and good service in a clean atmosphere, and we maintain a friendly rapport with our customers. Those are the basics. We have been willing to go the extra mile to make the food we serve from scratch using the highest-quality ingredients we can find. Some things can’t be rushed, and we’re willing to take the time necessary to do it right. We don’t compromise on these principles.
In Tulsa, say the word, “Savoy,” and people say, “cinnamon roll.” What is it about those cinnamon rolls that makes them so special?
We give great attention to the quality of the dough used in our cinnamon rolls and are generous with the other ingredients, like cinnamon. It’s also a process, which starts the previous day. All the work is done by hand, and we only sell fresh cinnamon rolls.
What things on the menu do customers love besides the cinnamon rolls?
Our breakfast skillets are very popular. House-made chorizo is a more recent hit. Lunch specials like roast turkey and dressing (Thursday only) and skillet-fried chicken (Friday) have a strong following. Our eggs Benedict served on a homemade English muffin with fresh hollandaise is one of our most popular items. Try it with chorizo.
What music do you listen to in the kitchen?
None. Sometimes you’ll hear tunes in our bakery, but our kitchen has always been strictly business.
What would we find in your fridge at home?
Fresh ingredients: chicken, cheese, salad makings, and fruit and veggies.
Who taught you to cook?
Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
When I was 4 or 5 years old and woke to a “ho ho ho” sound thinking it was Santa. It was my father.
What foods do you make for Christmas in your family?
In the past we often did a traditional Thanksgiving-style meal: turkey, dressing, etc. But in recent years we’ve become partial to smoking a bone-in ribeye on the Hasty Bake, served with whipped potatoes and chocolate pie for dessert.