We all know many stories about the Greeks who came to Australia for a better life. They came with little to nothing and worked hard to build a new life for them and a future for their kids.
This narrative is being flipped on its head as George Paraskevopoulos sets up his café business, Roasting Warehouse, in Athens.
George Paraskevopoulos’ parents came to Australia in the post-war migration wave; they built a new life that saw their son come to own his successful businesses, The Soup Place and The Rush.
George calls the move to Greece “sentimental” because his father has passed away, and now he can complete the full circle back to Greece.
He is also taking his two youngest sons, Jonathan and Alexander, to Greece to expand their knowledge and the business Roasting Warehouse.
Bringing the Aussie Café culture to Athens
His oldest son, James, also works at Roasting Warehouse, which has already dropped anchor in three locations: two in Victoria, in North Melbourne and Airport West, and another in South Fremantle, Western Australia.
Roasting Warehouse Athens will be located in the suburb of Neos Kosmos, 1.2km away from the Acropolis.
George wanted to bring the Melburnian café experience to Athens, especially to the Greek Australians who travel there annually and those who moved there permanently. He wants to connect to that community.
“My wife and I go every March, and I want to have my coffee and be part of a community in Greece,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“That’s the hardest thing for Greek Australians. They need help integrating into a particular local community.
“Coffee around the world, even in Australia, has solved that problem because when you drink coffee every day, you go to a particular venue every day. You meet the baristas; you meet the locals.
“It’s more for the soul. We’ve succeeded through life, but this is for the soul now.”
Roasting Warehouse distributes across Australia to over 400 customers, and now, with a location in Greece, they may be pivoting towards a more significant international market.
George adds they have secured a deal in Cyprus and are in talks with Lebanon, Turkey and London. He believes Greece is “the most strategic country in the world.”
Fusing Greek and Australian culinary traditions
Part of setting up in Athens is taking an essential part of Australia.
“We talk about the proudness of being Greek, but we’re bringing our culture because we’re just as proud to be Australians,” George said.
“In Airport West, the roaster is part of the cafe, and that’s where the magic is because you’re seeing the whole process. It has yet to be done in Greece.
“That’s why my partners in Greece were attracted. We’re taking our Australian brand.
George says he is also “taking our coffee blends to Athens, and our Australian menu of chilli scrambled eggs, chilli and avocado, the sausage roll. Vegemite will be on every table.”
George and his team are also putting together ideas to bring Greek and Australian food.
Some of the dish ideas they’ve come up with is loukaniko with zucchini and tzatziki, loukaniko with eggs and even Tarama in another breakfast.
The other way they bring the Aussie spirit to Athens is through executive chef Dave Stewart.
Dave is a philhellene and feels like “an honorary Greek.”
“My grandmother was a fantastic gardener who used to grow her produce, so very European style,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“My best mate, he’s Greek, and his parents owned a major fruit and veg business in Gippsland. His mum was a fantastic cook and used to cook every day while he and I knocked around in the kitchen and learned.”
Over the years, he worked at several establishments, including partnering up with Nick Frangoulis, who owns Poseidon Seafoods, and Chris Moraitis to open a Mediterranean Greek influence restaurant. It closed recently but lasted around 20 years, with Dave there for ten years.
While they will be taking something there, George hopes Dave can return it when he returns from Greece.
“It goes both ways; we’re taking something there, and Dave, he’s never been to Greece before and will come back with something,” George said.
“That’s where the real value is more than anything else.”