Con Christopoulos has played a big part in giving Victorian hospitality a flavour all its own.

With a hospitality portfolio that includes such defining Melbourne venues as The European, Melbourne Supper Club, City Wine Shop, Siglo, Angel Music Bar and Butcher’s Diner.

But Christopoulos also has a wealth of experience (and a passion to match) in architecture and design, and his next hospitality adventure is a resort in Vanuatu, suggesting it will be a while yet before he decides to slow it down. Lucky us.

Con Christopoulos was inducted into the MFWF Legends Hall of Fame in 2019.

My first job in hospitality was at my Uncle Zac’s milk-bar and grocer as a kid living in Essendon. My dad owned it and my mum ran the shop when I was a baby, then a few years later my uncle bought it from them. When he’d get busy, he’d whistle, I’d run across the street, and we’d hang out, and I’d help out his customers and write signs in English for him. I loved it. As an adult (well, technically, as a 17-year-old who lied about being 18 and who went by the name Richie Blackmore so that he could get paid a higher rate), I was lucky enough to cut my teeth as a waiter for the Fink family at the legendary Southern Cross Hotel. That’s where I caught the bug.

The reason I got into this industry was because it was the next best thing to studying architecture. I’d long been obsessed with architecture and design, but when I was in my last year of high school I fell in love (hard) with a girl, and my grades suffered so much that when I graduated, architecture was off the cards. My family was pressuring me to apply myself to something, and fortuitously my best mate in school grew up in a family of hospitality workers so he suggested that I sign up to do a hospo course at William Angliss alongside him. It ended up being one of the greatest turns of events – it’s how I came to do what I now do, and I still get to live out my design dreams in each of my venues.

The reason I stayed was so I could dream a little, continue to surround myself with good people, and I was simply having way too much fun to do anything else.

The proudest moment in my career would be the night I noticed we had an unofficial taxi rank outside the Supper Club on Spring Street. We were about four months into the venue opening, and it was just this moment of thinking, “I think we might have created something really great here”. We’d opened the Supper Club pretty much just because I wanted somewhere to play backgammon with my mates, but then it sort of exploded, and we had a perpetual line out the front for years, and we couldn’t understand why nobody else was opening a late night bar. When you realise that people are coming back because of something that you created, you can’t help but feel pride in what you do.

The mistake that taught me the most was something that I’m still learning to manage. I like pushing myself, but it’s taken me a while to get to this place where I enjoy it rather than am fearful of it. In business, it’s always smart and sensible to stay in an environment where you’re finding success, but I’ve come to realise it’s equally important to push yourself and continue to grow. I suppose, that greatest mistake is not pushing myself out of my comfort zone quicker.

My mentor was Donlevy Fitzpatrick. He taught me (and many others) the big picture in hospitality, and he embodied and gave that complete experience every day, in everything he did. My mentor now is my father Harry. At 91, he continues to inspire and guide me and is a living legend. He taught me the fundamentals of business from a very young age, and I still draw from his experience in everything I do.

The most exciting development in the Victorian hospitality industry in the last five years is Four Pillars Gin. They’re taking over the world, won countless awards, and every decent bar across the globe has a bottle of Four Pillars on its shelf. The paths they have forged for our local spirits industry is astounding. They expanded craft spirits into a major player in fast-moving consumer goods – they’ve created this whole new category in the tourism industry, and they’re continuously striving not just for more, but for better. Hats off to Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and Matt Jones.

What I hope for the future of Victorian hospitality is for more stability, more freedom, and an environment that re-energises our subcultures. Overall, a thriving food, music and club scene that can inspire more young dreamers to jump on board and make a career out of this great industry.

My favourite Victorian Drinks producers are Michael and Hollie Aylward from Ocean Eight Winery on the Mornington Peninsula. They’re two beautiful people and they’re making really lovely wine.

My favourite Victorian food producer is Holy Goat Cheese. Carla Meurs and Anne-Marie Monda are living legends (and MFWF Legends, too), and I simply can’t get enough of their cheese – it goes with everything.

My go-to for a bite to eat is France-Soir for so many reasons, and Salona in Richmond for some Greek. Can I also mention Flower Drum? And maybe Gimlet, too? We have way too many good joints to pinpoint just one.

And my go-to for a drink? I always start the night with a dry gin Martini with a twist, and at Gerald’s Bar they’re making it for me before I even say the words. If I’m in the CBD, the new Martinis with Mancini.