Taso Tirkas: Co-Owner of Salut, Co-Founder of Ufficient

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas
twitter.com/SalutKitchenBar

Walk into Salut Kitchen Bar in Tempe, and you’ll soon encounter Taso Tirkas. The 33-year-old Tempe resident from Cypress co-owns the restaurant, and is constantly seen milling about the space chatting up diners and drinkers and charming them with his enthusiasm and worldliness. The spot has quickly become a Tempe stand-out since its opening last year for good reason — the menu blends cuisines into tasty handcrafted offerings, the beer and wine selection is plentiful, with more than 100 wines offered, and the atmosphere is both relaxed and classy.

While Tirkas is thrilled with the success of Salut, he’s also working on a new venture, a mobile application called Ufficient, which puts users directly in touch with a variety of service providers and allows users to vet them before hiring by perusing reviews and making sure they’re appropriate for the job. The app is currently in beta testing, and Tirkas is confident it will also be a hit.

Read on for how he’s created his businesses, and check out a video of him talking about his favorite reasons for living in the Valley below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here to go to ASU for business and marketing when I was 22. I’m from the island of Cyprus, a small island close to the Middle East on the Mediterranean Sea, close to Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

I came here because my brother, cousin and uncle were at ASU. I was choosing between London and ASU for college and had never been to the States. I was at an American college over in Cyprus, the University of Indianapolis, so I was able to transfer all my credits. I had been to London before and didn’t want to go there, because it’s very moody weather. Continue reading

Matt Winkler: Six-Time Arizona Table Tennis Champion

Matt Winkler, instructor at Table Tennis & More, photographed at his training facility in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Matt Winkler, instructor at Table Tennis & More, photographed at his training facility in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Matt Winkler
twitter.com/MattTtplayer23

Whether you’re looking to beat that guy in the office who just always seems to dominate the ping-pong table, are in need of a great workout, or really want impress your clan with your table tennis skills at your upcoming family reunion, Matt Winkler can help. The 29-year-old Phoenix resident is the best table tennis player in the state, with the highest table tennis rating and having won the state table tennis championship six times in a row. He even got to teach Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic a thing or two this year for a video for Sprint, and he hopes to train more professional athletes to help them with their coordination. He also counts comedian Frank Caliendo as a client he regularly coaches.

The USA Table Tennis-certified national level coach ranks in the top 200 of United States-born men, and he has competed in tournaments in California, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida, including the US National Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas every year, and the US Open Table Tennis Championships. He teaches through his business Table Tennis & More, founded by his dad.

See him in action at his next tournament, Sunday, July 27 at Phoenix Table Tennis Club, which is open to the public. Winkler explains why he’s passionate about ping-pong, as well as names his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. I went to Central High School and got a business management degree from ASU. Continue reading

Alexi DeVilliers: Creator of Fishliptz Sculptures

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi Devilliers
facebook.com/Fishliptz

Alexi DeVilliers started his career with wanting to feed the homeless. The 48-year-old Tempe resident creates unique sculptures, such as robots and dogs, made out of cans formerly containing food used to cook meals for those in an elderly shelter. As an artist, he goes by Fishliptz, which he’s been devoted to full-time since November. His art is sold everywhere from Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale and SunDust Gallery & Art Center in Gilbert, to Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art in Prescott, Arizona, Pop Gallery in Sante Fe and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Find him  on 4th St. and Roosevelt for every First Friday Artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and read more about how he merges his passion for creating art with helping others, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Miami, and 9/11 brought my wife and I here around 13 years ago. My wife worked for the airlines, and I worked for a sprinkler company. After 9/11, they started to lay people off and gave her a severance package. We were going to come here to visit my friend John for his 40th birthday, and we said, “Let’s just move.”

I was born in New York, and my parents were born in Cuba. We moved to Florida when I was 5. Continue reading

Lisa Starry: Founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre

Lisa Starry, founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, photographed in her studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Lisa Starry, founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, photographed in her studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Lisa Starry
twitter.com/scorpius_dance

For 15 years, Lisa Starry has brought spooky vampires, passionate lovers and aerial flyers to local stages, all of who know how to groove. As founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, Starry has choreographed and directed dancers at worldwide performances, with her company of more than 20 dancers, as well as aerial performers.

The 44-year-old Phoenix resident is also helping shape the future of the local dance scene, as co-founder and Associate Head of School of Metropolitan Art Institute (Metro Arts). In-between her day job and coming up with new moves for Scorpius, she teaches modern dance for Scorpius and the public Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. in the studio at Metro Arts.

See her work this weekend as Scorpius Dance Theatre performs Catwalk, with music by Duran Duran, Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 at Phoenix Theatre. Find tickets here. Starry explains how she started her company below, and you can watch a video of her name her five favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents moved here when I was 11. I went to Central High School, then studied at the Phoenix School of Ballet before going to California Institute of the Arts to get my degree in dance choreography. I was born in Dover, Delaware. Continue reading