After spending 1988 through 1995 as a professional basketball player for the Albanian national team and then clubs in Greece, Ardian came to New York to seek his fortune.
His first job was cleaning a basement twice a week, leading to a bus boy job at the Greek restaurant Stamatis. When the sous chef quit, Ardian moved into the kitchen to learn the ropes without any knowledge of cooking.
By taking detailed notes and sometimes working 14 hour days, Ardian's skills and reputation blossomed. Eventually, he became the sous chef at the original Taverna Kyclades in Astoria, which was smaller and in less-than-ideal shape. Two years later, the owner sold the restaurant to Ardian.
Ardian turned the restaurant around with his obsession for picking the best fish to cook and knowing every customer. Besides, he was hard to miss! They always asked: "Where's the big guy?"
Everybody believes in something. It's not about religion or fanatics. I carry this cross with me everyday. I've had this for 30 years now. I bought it when I was in Greece. In Athens. I could wear it on the court. I could always put it in my pocket.
It's yellow and white gold. It's very simple stuff. It makes me feel good. It's like when you have a good day or a bad day. Sometimes you have a great day. Sometimes this is broke or that is broke. I say, "Keep fighting."
Part of success is sometimes you fall to keep moving. It's a symbol. Some people have a tattoo, they believe what they have on their arm. I believe in this. I carry it all the time.