The Golda project and team
Modern Israeli cuisine is an ever evolving cuisine, not restricted by boundaries. A melting pot of different cultures who migrated there from europe, north africa and the middle east. The use of vegetables, fresh herbs and spices defines Golda’s cuisine and shows the variety of flavours and textures within a meal.
Adam Faigen | Owner
Adam is a hospitality veteran and commenced working in the industry in 1996 (when in his early 20’s). His passion grew and he decided that Hospitality was the career for him. This followed opening up his first business in 2001 and has operated several other businesses since. His current and most recent for the last 8 years, Gramercy Social located within and the servicing restaurant to The Cullen Hotel in Prahran.
Rotem Papp | Co-Owner | Head Chef
Rotem was born and raised in Tel-Aviv, Israel, where he started his culinary career working under world renowned Chef Meir Adoni for restaurant ‘Catit’. From there he moved to Australia and quickly became an integral part of the Melbourne food scene holding positions of Head Chef at both L’hotel Gitan and more recently at one hat restaurant Bar Lourinha.
To complete the Leadership Team and to support both Adam and Rotem in their food culture journey are Restaurant Manager, Stephanie McCarthy; Front of House Manager, Tyson Stephens and Gramercy’s Operations Manager, James Bolton who all with a combined diverse level of Industry skills and experience helped to pivot and execute the birth of Golda in this very challenging environment.
What were the challenges during COVID?
The main challenge that impacted Gramercy Social (like many other small business’) was the government enforced decision to close, and the staggered easing of restrictions that had a significant flow on effect. This followed with the announced closure of The Cullen Hotel of which 60% of revenue was generated through Conferencing & Events, guest traffic and the provision of services such as room service and dine-in breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We were faced with the upsetting and difficult decision to stand down staff and commence redundancies and beginning restructuring the business. Providing open and transparent communication along the way
The JobKeeper scheme was/is effectively a lifeline, however this presented its own challenges in the beginning, understanding eligibility, guidelines, employee reassurance & communication and importantly the timelines of the wage subsidy paid monthly in arrears by the ATO. It almost seemed impossible at the beginning with no revenue and no cashflow. Supporting our staff was number one priority. Not participating was not an option, we made this work, like many business’ we needed a bank facility to commence our participation in JobKeeper and back pay eligible employees accordingly.
Many different strategies were adopted and trialled and the term ‘pivot’ came to light as a way of surviving, not knowing what was going to happen next week we took each day at a time. Ideas and new directions were written in grey led pencil as there were so many process changes- jokingly!
With our suppliers left with an exorbitant amount of stock due to venues closing, and the community either not able go grocery shopping or able to access certain products, Adam quickly developed ‘Essential Food Supplies’. Exactly as it sounds, a website facilitating orders and supplying essential foods to those who needed them. Steph, James and Adam put their delivery driver hats on and started packing and delivering, initially locally and then to whoever needed.
This was a means of a different revenue stream and assisted us in ensuring we were able to continue to pay staff for entitlements like annual leave
We found that people were ordering as ‘gift boxes’ and sending them to friends and loved ones, so from that came another ‘pivot’. At this point Easter was around the corner, so Easter and Passover gift boxes were delivered over the Easter Long Weekend.
This was then followed closely by Mother’s Day. An incredibly satisfying experience to surprise so many mums with some delicious Scones and Jam from our friends at Phillippa’s bakery, cream, biscuits and maybe even a bottle of wine.
It is now the beginning of May and the ease of restrictions are around the corner, but not for Victoria. The safeguard of no dine-in service remains. Whilst we were disappointed we had additional time to plan and execute opening for dine-in (20 customers per enclosed space) on June 1
It was at this point though, that we decided to open Gramercy for take away. Up until this point we were completely closed. Coffee’s in the morning and a reduced menu for dinner. Our valued team (JobKeeper eligible) were excited to re-open the doors.
At this same time we commenced operating Golda for takeaway, modern Israeli. Golda was essentially subletting and sharing the kitchen with Gramercy and had the ability to generate a higher revenue stream
How did you come up with GOLDA concept?
Golda is essentially a concept that Adam and Rotem have been working on for some time. Although having not directly committed to it, it is something that they both new was going to happen
Throughout 2019 they were actively looking for the right location, although unsuccessful. Then covid-19 hit and initially (and obviously) the idea is parked
(As above) With notice that the Hotel was going to close, this instantly changed the future prospects of Gramercy surviving or staying afloat
Another pivot point and ultimately an opportunity to do something completely different
Adam, being a restaurateur for the last 20 years always wanted to venture into a project that was authentic to him and his upbringing
Family history- on his mother’s side, his grandmother and grandfather were born in Iraq and left there at a young age and moved to Singapore
Adams’ mum grew up in Singapore and was sent to Australia for boarding school. So there was a lot of Asian food, Singaporean, Malay, Chinese and Indian infsions
Dad’s family were essentially Polish/Russsian and grew up with traditional Ashkenazi food (Jewish)
Adam wanted a concept that incorporated a lot of the food that he was brought up with and during that journey new he needed a chef that understood the cuisine and new that he couldn’t commit to take the next step until he found the right Chef
Adam describes that Rotem is responsible for taking his initial concept and framing it into Modern Israeli. When they met for the first time Rotem framed it straight away as Modern Israeli- a fusion of East and West.
But it can also be related to that of Australian cuisine, an amalgam of all sorts of cuisines and an absorption of so many different cultures and cooking styles. The journey is a melting pot of all these influences and flavours- Mediterranean, middle eastern, European, North African and can keep evolving into many things.
What Rotem wants to do with the food is let it speak for itself and to bring all these cultures to the plate and essentially all of the foods that they were both brought up on
Rotem describes that it is so nice to be able to do something that is all him, to be able to not have any restrictions or boundaries about the food that he wants to create and to let his identity and heritage shine on the plate
Why the name Golda?
Adam wanted a name that the Jewish community can make a connection with. Famously there is the association of Golda Meir- a very influential and forceful spokeswoman and the first Female Prime Minister of Israel. And on the other hand wanted a name that wasn’t obviously Jewish for people outside of the community
Both Adam and Rotem really feel that ‘Golda’ is female, a connection to their mothers and grandmothers. In fact, it is everyone’s mother and grandmother or any female figure in your life, where culture and heritage can play homage to them around food, love, nurture and comfort
The name represents a maternal feeling, that’s what resonates with people
What’s the future plan?
Pre Lockdown 2.0 and from June 1 Golda was open for Dine-In Dinner and had been received exceptionally well
Now in lockdown 2.0 and back offering Take away
With a successful start and when lockdown ends, Gramercy will sadly close permanently and rebadge as GOLDA, and with much excitement GOLDA will eventually take on all operations including lunch and breakfast and fullful the servicing provisions to The Cullen Hotel once the hotel also re-open
We have also just launch a new pop-up in Ripponlea called Chik-Chak by GOLDA (pronounced Chick Chuck) and is Hebrew slang for ‘quick-quick’ and ‘in a hurry’ and that’s exactly what we did to get this open and help support staff employed by Golda during second lockdown
162-164 Commercial Road,
located within The Cullen Hotel
1300 465 321
54 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 3185
0438 824 297