Address: 12 Queens Ave, Springvale VIC 3171
Phone: (03) 8555 2343
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From an interview with Alex that has been edited.
First published by The City of Greater Dandenong
The thought process behind Cultural Commons began in early 2014.
I got together with my business partner and executive chef John, and we decided that we wanted to create something funky and different for the locals living in this multicultural community.
We were looking for a place and luckily for us a landlord that my parents do business with found this spot. He asked my parents if they wanted to take it over who, in turn, approached us. The opportunity came up so we grabbed it. It was perfect.
We then went to a designer, Studio Equator, who has done a lot of big projects in the city. They brought in the incredible graffiti artist, Mike Makatron, who produced all of our graffiti art. It was messy at the time, but the artwork turned out really well.
Our feature wall catches everyone’s attention as soon as they walk through the door. We finally opened on Valentines Day, 2015.
We’re still growing, but I’m pretty happy with the way that things are going.
Taking over the family business was my first thought.
I grew up working in my parents’ restaurant.
They have a roast duck shop on Buckingham Ave and – before that – they worked in Richmond. They’ve been in this line of work for 27 years, but I always had this desire to do something different.
I have an Asian culinary background, so this has been a hard transition. To this day it is still very challenging but John has 15 years working in Western hospitality and we have combined our skills really well.
The next step is to bring in a few more fusion dishes. We have a soft shell crab burger which is really popular, but I’d like to introduce a Peking duck burger.
Keep your eyes peeled for that.
Cultural Commons is a family friendly place where everyone can hang out and eat delicious food.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t anything like this in Springvale.
We’d go to the library after school where you had to be dead silent or go home. Now, there is a place where students can have a burger, chips, a milkshake and chill with their friends.
We had three burgers on the menu when we opened and everyone would order them. They were a hit, so John said, “push more burgers.” We never planned on becoming a burger joint, but it happened over time. I’d recommend our American Dream double patty burger, which is ranked by Burgers of Melbourne as one of the best in the city.
John recently brought in a big smoker, and the meat that he smokes is absolutely amazing. We smoke brisket for 12 hours and the beef short ribs, lamb ribs and pork ribs – which fall off the bone – for eight hours.
The meat comes with our in-house BBQ sauce, our sides – crispy chips and onion rings, coleslaw, potato salad and a garden salad – can be mixed and matched, and they are very versatile.
All of these pair really well with our burgers.
We source our veggies from the local grocer, and our meat comes from a speciality butcher.
We mince the beef in-house, so we have total control over what goes in them.
I also do my best to help out the surrounding businesses, and being near quality produce is really helpful. Being involved in community projects has also been hugely positive.
The kids in the area all know us, and they have helped us spread the word like crazy. On Saturdays and Sundays, we get a lot of young families that come through the doors and – throughout the week – many office workers will either come in for lunch, or order through Ubereats.
And I really have to thank the locals for getting our name out there. So many people have come in, tried our food and told me, “oh my god.”
“We were recommended by a friend of mine, we travelled a long way and the food is absolutely beautiful.”
Starting our own business has been difficult but – in the end – when you have a group of 10 people saying “your burgers are wonderful,” it makes a 13-hour shift seem like nothing.
It’s the best compliment we can get.
I’ve seen how Springvale has developed over the years.
Ever since the early 2000s it has been modernising, and people from all different backgrounds are moving and settling here. The aim of Cultural Commons was to work with this cultural development, and highlight the fact that Springvale is part of something new and exciting.
Hopefully, in the future, similar businesses will open here and go with with the flow of what the council wants Springvale, and the City of Greater Dandenong, to be. I’m sure that Cultural Commons will play a part in drawing a huge and diverse crowd into the area.
And our menu will be changing fairly shortly.
We’ll be adding a few more burgers to keep things fresh and exciting for our customers. We’ll also be coming out with more milkshakes, and a lot more options for students to try after school.
Our plan is to keep growing, learning and innovating.
Written by Aron Lewin with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott