Dean Kois, 59, grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, as part of a big, Greek family that was crazy about boats. Today he is a successful New York City-area restaurateur who feels blessed to be able to share his love of the nautical life with his kids.
Power & Motoryacht: How’d you get into boating?
Kois: My father was a lifetime boater—he’d been on boats since he was six—and his uncles had boats, his grandfather had a boat, so it only became natural that I would end up having a boat. I was born in December 1954 and I think my father planned it that way so I’d be able to be on a boat by June. When we were kids in Brooklyn, my dad would pack us in the car, and the car would be so low it was almost scraping, and we’d drive out to Northport, Long Island, every single weekend until I was probably 20 years old.
Power & Motoryacht: So everybody in your family was big into boating then?
Kois: Yes, in fact [the well-known, late yacht designer] Tom Fexas was my father’s first cousin.
Power & Motoryacht: Did you know he used to write for us?
Kois: Are you kidding? He wrote the Spectator column. I read it all the time. All that hate mail from the sailboaters!
Growing up we had four family boats and we’d tie up together every single weekend. Tommy was a teenager at the time. He had such an affinity for boats and it was so amazing that he was able to make it a career. We used to spend every single weekend together on those boats. Boating back then was a way of life. It was your vacation, it was your summer home, it was your summer camp if you were a kid.
We used to sit on the boat for weeks with no modern conveniences. Back then it was affordable. My father never called a mechanic in his life; he did everything himself. And we’d boat around Northport and Huntington Harbor. That’s where I boat now. My wife and I and my kids Kimberly and Dylan have been boating for 30 years together. Today I do my best boating with them and my friend Peter and his family. We boat every year and take vacations together. He’d kill me if I didn’t mention him in the interview.
Power & Motoryacht: I understand you’ve owned a lot of boats, what do you have now?
Kois: A 42-foot Sea Ray Aft Cabin, from 2000. Every year we take a big trip. We do Atlantic City, Cape May, or Ocean City, Maryland.
We like to go to Montauk, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard. Montauk is probably our favorite. You could just do anything there. The food there is just incredible. One time I caught a 50-pound tuna and we had the yacht club cook it for us.
Power & Motoryacht: And you’re in the restaurant industry yourself. Do food and boating intermingle for you?
Kois: The food always tastes better when you’re on the boat! I am always finding a low tide somewhere and digging my hand in mud and finding clams to bring back to the boat, scrubbing them down, putting them on ice, and eating them off the half shell. Man that’s the best.
My grandmother taught me to clam. She went clamming once in Northport and got circled by a shark, and she just went right on digging. They caught that thing and hung it up in the marina. It was ten feet long. That’s how it was back then. People were different, maybe a little tougher.
Power & Motoryacht: You seem like an old-school, hands-on kind of guy. Do you consider yourself a gearhead?
Kois: Yeah, I love being in the engine room. I also hate it. That aft cabin, so much room inside the boat! But so little room in the engine room. Sometimes I need to hire a skinny guy to reach the corners! [Laughs] But yes I do enjoy the engine room. I like cleaning it, changing my oil, winterizing my water systems. My diesels, I’ve had my boat nine years, I’ve never had a problem with them. I’m mechanically inclined, kind of like my dad I guess.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.