An interview with Dean Sholl, traditionalist and founder of Empire Steak, on his mission to bring back the steak sandwich.
"It's steak in a sandwich not a steak sandwich."
After 20 years in the industry, having been around since the early days of The Pound Café, Empire Steak founder and traditionalist Dean Sholl chats to BrandWorks about Polly Waffles and the importance of being on trend. And yet here we find him, ahead of the curve.
The Empire Steak menu, which includes the Anti-Steak (Panko crumb, polenta flour mushroom), spent decades in percolation and a solid seven months’ refinement in a dedicated test kitchen. Sholl’s innovative steak cooking technique took another four years to get right. The result? It’s seriously out of this world.
On the brand
BW. Tell us about the birth of Empire Steak.
D. I had a real strong vision of what it needed to be – it had to be authentic. By virtue of really setting up our values and having a solid understanding of what our personality was, it allowed us to navigate and deflect what was on trend. We love what we do, and we know who we are. By ticking off our values, our choices became simple. Our values of authenticity and timelessness remain very inclusive. I think we can all feel when something is authentic – you get a sense for it, you can taste it immediately.
On the menu
BW. Well, we’re finding it delicious! What about doing something premium in a fast paced environment? Do you have secret cooking techniques…?
D. We have such a high quality product – our product is 100% grass fed and 100% free range. We use a premium cut as well – a porterhouse – so that’s already half the battle. And I’ve worked out a way to cook it that allows for complete consistency…
BW. Is it a secret?
D. (Laughs) I really don’t want to give it away, we spent a lot of time perfecting this! Suffice to say it’s the healthiest, most environmentally friendly way to do it.
BW. And effective.
D. Exactly. Like, our longest wait time is 8 minutes.
BW. Do you use locally sourced produce?
D. From Coldstream, Yarra Valley. We look at all our suppliers as partners, and it’s been great. They get it and they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re just as excited as us to be behind it!
On the future
BW. What’s next for Empire Steak?
D. We’re looking at another store in the city and one in South Yarra.
BW. How’s the journey so far?
D. We’re really excited to launch something that is truly Australian, something that we can really be proud of. We’re finding that customers are really responding to us!
Empire Steak is located at 61 Little Collins St. Melbourne
Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm