Local Hero: Eugene (Proper & Son)
The South Melbourne Market is a smorgasbord of sights, smells and flavours. Proper & Son helps bring this melting pot of sensory delights to your plate.
Proper & Son is led by long-time chef and fresh food aficionado, Eugene Lavery. He affectionately refers to the South Melbourne Market as “the biggest cold room in Melbourne.”
Having a beautiful symbiosis with the market, Eugene and his team take fresh, seasonal produce from the vendors and give back something that represents its full glory.
We spoke with our latest Local Hero, Eugene, about the history of Proper & Son and what sparks his creativity in the kitchen.
Meet Eugene, chef and owner of Proper & Son
Eugene moved to Melbourne 20 years ago from Dublin, Ireland. During his impressive career in hospitality, he’s worn the chef’s hat at various top restaurants worldwide, including The Windsor (London), Lynch’s Restaurant (now Entrecôte) and Black Rock.
But don’t let his professional achievements fool you. Eugene is a down-to-earth guy who loves having a laugh.
“For me, it’s always been about dining in, giving people hospitality – and having a chuckle while we’re there.”
Describe Proper & Son and the experience at the market
“I live locally, near the market. I’d always had my eye on it – until I was financially and physically able to do it. One day it all just sort of fell into place.”
Five years ago, Eugene spotted the opportunity of a lifetime to create something that represented the diverse community. Combining his passion for delicious food and exceptional customer service, he had the ingredients for something truly special.
“There wasn’t anywhere to have a sit-down coffee and eggs or that was reflective of what’s going on. Melburnians are so well-travelled and curious about food. They’re curious about other cultures and experiences and that’s reflected strongly in the City of Port Phillip. People like to be part of the market. And rightly so! A lot of locals have that sense of pride.”
Making Proper & Son his “market kitchen”, he takes inspiration from the market every day.
Eugene and his team of 15 have a mantra “Think how you’d like to be treated at a café.” This is how Proper & Son finds that perfect halfway point between fine dining and a sense of community.
“You can have a glass of wine and eat something interesting, but not pay too much money. It’s about finding that equilibrium – and making people feel at comfort straight away.”
What can people expect from the menu?
Proper & Son is known and loved for their bright and inventive salads – it’s one of their staples.
“People come in and ask for the salads,” says Eugune. And it’s no surprise why – Eugene creates new, delicious flavour combinations with market ingredients every week. And there are always plenty of vegetarian options on the menu, too.
Outside of their salads, they’re famous for their:
• Corned waygu brisket, with pickles, cabbage and mustard
• Free range roast chicken, with sage, onion and cranberry stuffing.
While the Proper & Son dine-in experience may be limited at the moment, you can still pick up a delicious Toby’s Estate coffee, a brekkie dish, market kitchen roll or salad to-go, plus mains to enjoy at home. Eugene can’t wait to welcome you back for a sit-down meal when it’s safe to do so.
What are some of your favourite places in the City of Port Phillip area?
Eugene’s inside the market picks:
• The Fish Shoppe – For their fresh sustainable seafood
• Agathé Pâtisserie – An absolute go-to for a delicious French pastry
• Frankie’s Story – Great pop of colours
• Georgie’s Harvest – The best seasonal produce.
• Venus & Co – Cyprian restaurant with a relaxed environment for families and quality food in Albert Park
• Jocks Ice Cream – Local handmade ice cream, also in Albert Park.
What do you love most about the market and the area?
“The sense of community you get with the people and the market visitors. And it’s not just a word they use flippantly. Everyone always walks past and says hello or has a bit of banter.”
Eugene says he feels really comfortable in the market environment and that he’s happy where he’s at. He says that market management and the City of Port Phillip are good to them and have been really supportive – and says “long may it continue!”
Meet other Local Heroes from the City of Port Phillip on our blog.