Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 November 2016
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Melbourne’s chicken whisperers Get your free range, gluten-free chook cooked with the freshest ingredients by local people with big hearts NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU hen Jim and Helen Hally (short for Hallyvopoulos) started their business back in 2010, they did not imagine clocking-up 40,000 followers on Instagram alone. What began from the family's need for healthy comfort food during a hard time escalated to three successful stores and many praises on social media. "When people come across town just to try out your chicken, it means a lot. The foodie community's support has been huge for us," Helen Hally tells Neos Kosmos. "It's all about getting to know your locals and keeping them happy. It pays off every time; the bonus is when someone drives from the other side of town just because they've seen you on social media and come to try out what everyone's been talking about." In fact, it was George Calombaris himself who drove all the way out to Chicken Central for a whole roasted chook and praised them W in an interview. We all love their free-range chicken and the difference the seasoning makes, but the only one who knows what goes in their secret gluten-free recipe everyone is talking about is Jim, otherwise known as the 'Chicken Whisperer'. "We call him that because every morning he has a certain ritual," Helen explains. "We hand season the chickens and he plays Kazantzidi in the background, focusing exclusively on the chickens, making sure the seasoning goes everywhere. It's all about the chickens!" How did Jim come up with this idea for a seasoning? By cooking at home. It all started when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and he had to take time off work to take care of her. The kids were four and six so at the time he had a lot on his plate. "My background is logistics and transport," he says. "I'm not a chef, can't even call myself a home cook. "It's funny where your life takes you. At first we used to go out to Carnegie where there was an amazing Greek-owned chicken shop. Then the owner sold it and we were left without options. But I thought 'oh wait, I can do this'." From the moment he decided to venture into the restaurant business until the day he opened the doors of the first shop in East Malvern, Jim spent a year practicing his roasting skills in his back yard, researching products and packaging. He even went and worked for people to learn the ropes, while engaging a naturopath friend towards creating healthy and fresh alternatives to combine the chicken with. "When Helen got breast cancer I was the one trying to find food for the family while she was recovering. I couldn't find any decent takeaway food so I took it upon myself to create a place that makes the food we wanted to be eating," Jim continues. "It's all things you can find in the pantry. We haven't changed the formula in more or less four years." Jim and Helen, having a daughter allergic to gluten and lactose intolerant, wanted to avoid stuffing in their chicken. Helen herself, during her treatment, realised that a proper healthy diet based on fresh ingredients has tremendous benefits in one's overall well-being. Their aim was to create some balance between the people looking for a healthy alternative and the people who want to have "that burger with the chips". "We take pride in the freshness of our food, and all those natural flavours that go into it to enhance it," she enthuses. "We use natural herbs and spices and products from local producers. Casual dining, family-friendly. Greek-style. A winner for us." Meanwhile, Chicken Central was the first chicken shop to start serving quinoa and cous cous six years ago, when at the time, competition offered the same lettuce or coleslaw salad and chips on the side. Quinoa, on the other hand, was just coming into fashion, so there was a niche in the market for people into a healthier way of life. "Not many knew what it was six years ago," Helen emhasises. "Bringing something like that into a local chicken store obviously gave it a lot of exposure. People loved it. When we don't cook quinoa in the shop they complain."
19 November 2016
3 December 2016