Food & Culture

Four successful family-run food businesses

Keeping it in the family.

Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate of Porteno, Sydney
Elvis Abrahanowicz (left) and Ben Milgate of Porteno, Sydney work alongside Abrahanowicz's dad, Adan.

You can't choose your family, so the saying goes, but you can choose whether you work with them, day in, day out. The owners of these businesses have opted to do just that, and through their dedication to family tradition and drive to push the boundaries, they've taken the Australian dining scene to dizzying new heights.

Flower Drum

What once began as a humble desire to serve good Cantonese food quickly grew to become one of the most prestigious and critically acclaimed Chinese restaurants in the country. Located in the heart of Melbourne's Chinatown, Flower Drum redefined the concept of Chinese food in Australia. Founded by Gilbert Lau in 1975 – later joined by executive chef Anthony Lui – Lau developed a restaurant experience and menu to rival its established European counterparts.

Fast-forward to 2018 and the restaurant still holds its prestige under the reigns of Lui and his son Jason. Both continuing to execute the restaurant philosophies of Lau, Flower Drum serves exemplary Cantonese dishes, from impressive omelettes to sumptuous Peking duck, while simultaneously tapping into the share-food trend. The point of difference: exceptional service from Jason Lui and his A-grade wait staff team who have walked the plush carpets of the dining room for more than 20 years.

Vittoria Coffee

Pioneers of the great Australian coffee industry, Vittoria Coffee has remained a family-owned business since it was established in 1958. Over time, the coffee kingpins transformed the small business into a global empire, attributable to the passing down of family expertise of the industry and the leadership qualities of now CEO, Les Schirato. Joined by his son Rolando, the pair has revolutionised coffee culture in Australia, serving their coffee at fine-dining restaurants, local cafes and bespoke hotels alike.

Celebrating their 60th anniversary, the coffee aficionados have marked the milestone by releasing a limited-edition run of their signature Maragogype roast. The single origin coffee, native to Nicaragua, is a high-cost bean delivering enticing aromas and a sweeter finish. With quality and sustainability at the core of the company's values, the Schirato family is as committed to developing signature blends as they are to supporting farmers.

Merivale

From chic beachside venues like the Coogee Pavilion to urban eateries such as Newtown's Work in Progress and Surry Hills' El Loco, there's something for everyone in Merivale's impressive portfolio of more than 70 brands and venues. Owned and run by the Hemmes family for more than 60 years, the hospitality group was originally founded as an iconic fashion house in 1955. Venturing into the world of restaurants and bars, the family-run business opened a Thai tea cafe within their Sydney fashion building in 1970.

The success of the group's dabble in the hospitality scene has seen Merivale conquer all; from fine dining to cocktail culture. Now at the helm is Justin Hemmes, a forward-thinking CEO who has a keen sense of creativity and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to Sydney's restaurant and bar offerings. There most notable project to date: The Ivy, an undeniably impressive urban playground.

Porteño

Back in 2006, Latin gastronomy experts Joseph Valore, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate, raised the bar on Australia's Argentinian food scene, opening the Surry Hills eatery, Bodega. By 2010, the team opened Porteño, introducing the nation to the Asado and Parilla.

Authenticity is the order of the day at Porteño, championing a fast and consistent cooking style. Adan, fire pitmaster and father to Abrahanowicz, is the secret weapon of the restaurant. Hailing from Buenos Aires, the Argentinean-born Asado veteran works the coals, adjusts the grills and fine-tunes every piece of meat.

Brought to you by Vittoria Coffee