Simon Gloftis, restaurateur

People always say that we should be making the Gold Coast like Melbourne or Sydney. No, we shouldn't – we're the Gold Coast and we're absolutely different ...

The term ‘foodie’ is thrown around pretty loosely these days – but it’s people like Simon Gloftis who give real substance to the term. Cemented by his Greek and greater Eastern European background, Simon has a genuine and incredibly deep passion for food. Following early days in the cafe scene with venues like Three Beans and Little Beans, Simon is now the owner of profoundly popular Greek restaurant Hellenika, and the former owner of The Fish House, the success of which has been driven by a simple ethos – quality produce comes first. We had a chat to Simon about food memories and the evolution of the Gold Coast dining scene.

The food industry on the Gold Coast is growing and changing pretty rapidly. What are your thoughts on how the restaurant and dining scene has evolved?
I think the changes are amazing. The last six or seven years, we’ve seen so many different styles of restaurants, and people really having a go. People that have owned cafes or that have worked in the industry are now going out on their own. For example, I think it’s now nine of my ex-staff members from over the years that have gone out and opened their own venues between Broadbeach and Palm Beach – so that shows some confidence in the market. I think the Gold Coast food scene is only going to get better. People always say that we should be making the Gold Coast like Melbourne or Sydney. No, we shouldn’t – we’re the Gold Coast and we’re absolutely different. Though, if I had to compare the Gold Coast to anywhere, it would be Miami in the States – there are some quality restaurateurs and chefs that are making their way there … and I think that’s going to happen here.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
I’ve had a lot, growing up in a European family! But my first real memory was standing at the door of the godfather’s restaurant in Melbourne, and everyone was sitting and eating, but I was just standing there watching the chefs and watching them cook, and they were handing me little bits and pieces to try. That’s my earliest memory of being in a restaurant. But, as a child growing up though, our whole life revolved around food, so I have lots of great food memories.

What best sums up your philosophy on food?
I’ve kept the same philosophy from back when I first stared in cafes, and it’s that the produce has to be number one. There are too many places, in my opinion, and not to sound negative, where people go there and say “I had the best cocktail”, and I’m like, “Well, what did you eat?”. I think people forget that you have to eat the food that’s on the plate! And it needs to have an element of health to it. I don’t mean healthy as such, but it’s more about quality. Like, sure, eat a burger, but make sure the meat in that burger is quality. To me, produce is number one, everything else is secondary. I won’t sell it if it’s not the best.

What changes would you like to see on the Gold Coast?
I think the council is slowly coming on board, and they are realising that food, hospitality and travel is a massive market. If you look at everyone’s Instagram, the photos are just of places they want to be, and food they want to eat! I think the Gold Coast is starting to understand that is food and drink market needs a bit more of a boost, so that’s where I’d like to see a bit more time and money spent.

What’s your all-time favourite food?
Seafood, definitely. I love baked-fish dishes.

What occupation would you love to have, if you weren’t a restaurateur?
I would love to be a hotelier. I would love to own boutique hotels – that would be my absolute ultimate. I love hotels, from real the corporate hotels, down to the tiny little trendy ones, and everything in between. I’ve got a few favourite hotels in the world, and it’s always what I think about when I go on holiday – the hotel … and the restaurants!

What’s your favourite place in the world? Apart from the Gold Coast, of course.
Greece. But, if it was for a weekend, or a few days, then Hong Kong without a doubt. I could live there very easily. It has hotels, food, horse racing, shopping, nightlife, everything!

How do you unwind?
It’s hard, but look, I genuinely really like the hospitality industry. I eat a lot – I start eating when I wake up in the morning and I keep going until I go to bed, so for me, I like to unwind with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine.

What’s your idea of happiness?
Yeah, that’s deep … I don’t know yet!

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