Appetite for Excellence is Australia’s only national hospitality awards program. They initiate, award and acknowledge distinguished members of the hospitality industry. This year is the 11th running of The Australian Young Waiter of the Year competition and today I had a chance to interview a finalist; George Papaioannou.
A waiter in Melbourne’s Luxembourg Bistro, George was able to open up to me about his thoughts and feelings on Melbourne food culture and his own passion regarding food.
How did you initially get into waiting?
So my first job was at Vogue Ballroom, I got into hospitality through my auntie, who passed me onto her friends. I started there, but even before that I’ve always been into food. I remember when I was younger, setting up the dinner table and holding plates, stuff like that. I don’t know why but I found it fascinating.
What do you enjoy about it?
It makes me happy to see other people happy, and it makes me sad to see other people sad. So when I see customers who aren’t happy with their meal, on the inside I can’t handle it, I’m thinking ‘why don’t you like the food? Why don’t you like this? Why don’t you like that?’ I am so passionate about the service I am giving that I want them to be passionate about receiving it.
What is the importance of being a waiter in a Melbournian restaurant?
Customers are demanding a lot more from service. You have to provide that, they’re more in tuned in what’s happening with the food industry, where produce is coming from and how everything is made. You need to know that as a waiter, you are the last point of contact between the kitchen and the table.
What do you think defines Melbourne food culture?
I think we’re definitely moving more towards sustainability in terms of organic farming and really focusing on farm to table. Melbourne is very trendy, it’s a trend to love food in Melbourne and it’s blown up. There’s a drive in Melbourne to be better than everyone else, haha! We’re very snobbish.
How does Luxembourg fit in with these trends?
It’s an Andrew McConnell restaurant, it has to fit in with the standard that Melbourne dictates. I’m not being biased because I work for them, but it’s true, everyone loves to eat at an Andrew McConnell restaurant. They really can’t do wrong. The group’s established itself over 15 years and there’s procedures, so the way we do things at every restaurant will be the same no matter where you go.
In what way does Luxembourg differ from other places?
It’s… tastefully casual. It’s a bistro. It’s a tasteful bistro! It’s a place you can go after work to have a snack and a good glass of wine.
What are some of your favourite places to eat?
I really love dining at Andrew McConnell restaurants. I love Super Normal, I go there all the time, cause you know…fried custard is life. Tipo 00, it’s probably my favourite rest in Melbourne at the moment as they do simple dishes really well. I love the small wine list and their focus on Italian, natural and organic produces.
Where do you see yourself going in regards to food and restaurants?
My goal is to own a restaurant, or café or bar of some sort. To what extent, I’m not sure yet, maybe not in Melbourne, maybe overseas? Maybe I’ll start something in Adelaide! Who knows?
To learn more about The Australian Young Waiter of the Year award and Luxembourg please visit the following.
To follow George Papaioannou on his food journeys please check out his instagram.