Growing up in Sydney’s south western suburb of Casula, Harry and Mario Kapoulas were always surrounded by a loving Greek family who taught them the importance of hard work and good hospitality.
It’s no surprise then that once the Kapoulas family moved to the Sutherland Shire, the brothers took these lessons with them and opened a number of hospitality businesses in Cronulla, including HAM Cronulla, C.C. Babcoq, Good Catering and Rushi.
“I’ve always said that it’s in our blood to serve people and to make people happy with food and drink… [Greeks] are very proud people with everything, let alone our food, so I sort of find that subconsciously that is who we are. That’s what drives me and Mario,” Harry Kapoulas tells The Greek Herald exclusively.
To get to this level of drive and motivation, Harry and Mario had to first go on a journey of self-discovery. Harry actually studied architecture after high school and did a bit of travelling, while Mario went straight into the hospitality scene and worked at a few ‘reputable places’ in the city.
Eventually, the brothers ended up working at and running their uncle’s café, The Nuns’ Pool in South Cronulla, for about four years. The invaluable experience they gained there left them with no doubt that the hospitality industry was the right fit for them.
“That’s how HAM Cronulla began. HAM started because we wanted to obviously run our own ship but also, we found that Cronulla was lacking at the time with cafés, and especially European-style venues, to eat at,” Harry explains.
HAM Cronulla is now one of the go-to cafes in the beachside suburb, with family-inspired Greek cuisine such as spanakopita, moussaka and pastitsio, along with a deli that offers gourmet cheeses and meats.
Family also continues to be at the core of HAM, with Harry and Mario’s mum, Kitty, working in the kitchen, and dad, Peter, sourcing fresh produce from the markets.
“We’ve always worked together in there… but mum does all her great things. We’ve always given her free rein in [the kitchen] to make what she does,” Harry says with a laugh.
“She has also now taught all the other cooks in the kitchen how to make all her traditional stuff… We don’t want it to just stop because mum’s not going to be there forever. We want to make sure we can continue making the awesome food that we make.”
For now though, it’s clear Kitty is still holding down the fort at HAM while her sons branch out and grow their Japanese-inspired café Rushi, which they run with business partner Lucy Brenton, and C.C. Babcoq, which is a rotisserie chicken shop and bar.
C.C. Babcoq is also set to get a second store in Bowral, which will open on October 25.
“C.C. Babcoq franchising is something we’re really interested in at the moment. We’ve just done one so we’re looking at selling more of those next year and seeing if people want to open them up in different areas,” Harry says.
It’s clear these businesses are a success so we just had to ask Harry whether he has any advice for others who also want to start a business.
“Don’t be scared. I think when you’re young is the best time to get involved in business because it takes so many years to learn everything and we’re both still learning every day. But to do it when you’re younger, you can afford to make mistakes you know, and really have a crack at it,” he concludes.
Wise words from one-half of a dynamic Greek Australian duo who are leaving their mark on the Cronulla food scene.