Address:55-61 Princes Hwy, Dandenong VIC 3175
Phone: (03) 9793 2133
From an interview with Joel that has been edited.
I started working at Dandenong Pavilion about eight years ago.
I had been working in various hospitality jobs since I was 13 years old, I was really ambitious and I always wanted to open my own business; particularly a restaurant.
So, about two years ago, I told my boss, Dani Zeini, that I was going to do my own thing and he proposed selling his share of the business to me. I was 24 years old.
The venue has always been about respect and teamwork and it remains so today. Respect for the customer, the food, the staff and the suppliers.
As a result, the transition to becoming an owner was smooth and exciting.
It has been an amazing journey.
Like Dandenong, our business is a very multicultural place
We have people from all over the world and, every time I look at it, I think it shouldn’t work, but it works so well.
It is a high pressure environment but – after work – we’ll get together, have a beer and a laugh.
All those high pressure moments are soon forgotten.
And our training is second to none.
The head chef and sous-chef spend a lot of time working with people in the kitchen, as does our management team on the floor.
As a result, our ability to take someone off the street, put them in a dishwasher position and – in a years time – have them cooking is amazing. We’ve sponsored a lot of people from overseas, and I am forever grateful for the hard work they put in. Many of these guys start off shy and after a while, they won’t stop talking.
One of the finest compliments we receive is from existing staff recommending their younger brothers, sisters and cousins to work at Dandenong Pavilion. Almost everyone who walks into the restaurant can feel the happy, relaxed and easy ambience which we really value.
Gordon Ramsay may come along and say we’re doing it all wrong but it works for us and it works for our customers.
We work hard to ensure they don’t leave dissatisfied.
We like to say that we specialise in modern Australian cuisine.
Steaks, pastas, parmas, calamari; a bit of everything.
We created a secret burger menu as we were becoming too much of a burger place, and we didn’t want to lose our restaurant identity. We thought, lets keep the burger menu a secret and – whoever knows about it – they can ask us for it.
When we were voted as having the best burgers in Melbourne in 2015 and 2016, our phones were ringing non-stop. It was phenomenal how that one big break put us on the map.
While burgers have been really hot for a long period, we recognise life moves in cycles. We have a vast menu with items such as slow roast lamb shoulder, Jack Daniels inspired beef rib, a wide range of entrees, numerous vegetarian dishes and in-house desserts.
We also have a specials menu that changes every three weeks.
We have almost 90 items on the menu if you count all the sides.
People from all different cultures, nationalities and ages come here, and we try to feed the soul.
We have a curry dish from a chef whose recipe has been passed down the generations. It’s the same with our chicken Florentine. It’s not a dish that you’ll find on everyone’s menu, but it’s phenomenal.
Modern Australia means that there are flavours from everywhere.
We have our different stories but they all come together.
I went to school in St. Johns here in Dandenong.
They have a hospitality academy that works out really well for us.
To have apprentices that are interested in the industry, that know about our restaurant, and that anything is possible if you work hard, is fulfilling and invigorating. Whenever we want to hire an apprentice, we go to St Johns. As a result, we have a really good relationship.
And our Burger Stop operates as a hole-in-the-wall at the back of the building just off the car park. It opens at 9.30pm and closes at 1am from Wednesday to Sunday. We were turning so many people away after our kitchen closed at 9.30pm, so we decided to leave the grills open.
Dandenong Pavilion is like a community in itself.
The regulars seem to know everyone by name, and there are customers who come every day for something.
And we suit all different occasions, which is a good feeling.
I love the work.
Hospitality doesn’t have to be a hostile environment and, if everyone is happy, the results are so much better.
We have 70 staff in the restaurant so, if I have a day off, I rest a bit easier because everyone is well trained.
It really helps when you work with good people.
If you enjoy what you are doing, you are never really working.
All photos by Tatiana C C Scott