For Eugene Lavery, running a restaurant is all about striking the right balance.
While it was the “shouting, hissing and sense of urgency” in the kitchen that forged Eugene’s love of the food industry when he was at catering college, he needed to exercise considerable patience before he could open Proper & Son.
“I live locally and I had been eyeing a spot at the Market for 10 years,” he says, adding that he loves the tangible sense of community shared by the stallholders. “When an opportunity to be here came up, I grasped it with both hands!”
Originally trained in classic fine dining in London and Melbourne, Eugene creates “fast food with a slow food ethos”, combining impeccable provenance with classic cooking methods. They may bear a passing resemblance to the humble salad roll from milk bars of old, but Eugene’s breakfast and lunch rolls are more sit-down affairs, best suited to lingering over with friends – and soon able to be enjoyed alongside a glass of wine, as the restaurant is will soon have a liquor licence.
To source the ingredients used at the eatery, Eugene’s day starts at 7am when he spends about an hour going around the Market to buy fresh produce from other stallholders including Hagen’s Organic Butcher, South Melbourne Seafoods, The Fish Shoppe and Fruits on Coventry. By 7.30am his team are in the midst of breakfast preparations, after which they start work on salads for lunch.
Eugene works collaboratively with his staff to create menu items with a focus on health and seasonal produce. “For instance, we ask what could we do with asparagus when it’s in season,” he says, emphasizing that they try not to repeat dishes week after week, but customers often have other ideas. “They bring in photos of food they’ve had before and ask us to make it,” he laughs.
By 3pm, the rush of hungry customers is over and Eugene goes home to cook for his own family – presumably at a slightly more relaxed pace than at the Market!