By Jack Hayes
The City of Melbourne has awarded its first round of grants as part of their financial support package to help businesses adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.
The program provides financial support for businesses to invest in online and e-commerce capabilities, take part in training and professional development and undertake capital works.
Among the first successful applicants is the Queen Victoria Market’s own Whack It On The Barbie, a barbecue and wood-fired cooking school providing virtual classes.
With more than 20 years of experience as a trained chef and food industry professional, Whack It On The Barbie owner and operator, Ryan Andrijich, said the grants would allow him to stay connected with his community during these times of isolation.
“What it has given me, or maybe pushed me into doing, is adding online retail to my website, which included equipment and gift packs,” Mr Andrijich said. “From there we committed further to provide live events on Facebook and Instagram, to help people keep in touch and engage with us.”
With one half of his family Croatian vignerons, the other Australian farmers, food has always been in Mr Andrijich’s blood.
Now with rise in popularity of American style barbequing and two decades of perfecting the art of cooking with fire and smoke, Mr Andrijich is inspiring a new generation of home cooks.
“I learnt that style of cooking at home. And I learnt how families do it, but I understand it like a chef does. So that allows me to teach it and explain it in a way that is more approachable,” he said.
Although his cooking technique of using fire and smoke may be ancient in nature, Mr Andrijich’s approach in evolving his business is anything but.
“It is easy to lead with the attitude of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ Don’t get me wrong, spending hours on the computer learning a program that [works out the] postage for products I’m sending out, isn’t exactly my number one priority,” he said.
“But these are the little things, now that we have a bit of time, will allow us to add a bit more contingency to our business model.”
“The support of both the City of Melbourne and Queen Victoria Market has been amazing. To know you’re not going to drown in rent and costs while this has happened, has been incredible.”
With almost 400 businesses sharing in $1.7 million of funding, with the remaining $3.3 million to be allocated as more grants are approved, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said this was just the beginning of the council’s investment in Melbourne’s business community.
“Small businesses make up about 80 per cent of the total number of businesses in the City of Melbourne and are run by people and families who have turned an idea or a passion into an enterprise,” the Lord Mayor said. “These businesses play a major role in providing jobs for Melburnians, and right now, they urgently need our support.”
“We have received an overwhelming response to this grants program with thousands of small and medium-sized businesses applying for financial support.”
“This goes to show that even in tough times, our local businesses are ready to tackle challenges head on, think differently and adapt, which is an admirable spirit we want to reward and support as much as we can.”
Now with a new arsenal of American made Primo ceramic grills, Mr Andrijich is keenly awaiting the day he can re-open his doors and usher in a new era at Whack It On The Barbie.
“We hope everyone stays safe. When we get back to face-to-face classes, we are going to do it with caution and safety. We can’t wait to get back to classes,” he said •
For more information: whackitonthebarbie.com