A Perth butcher is taking his meat to the world.
As a 14-year-old-boy with little inclination for academic pursuits, Vince Garreffa had only one dream – to become a highly trained, well-respected butcher serving a loyal customer base.
Having run his own business for the past 30 years Mr Garreffa has lived that dream to the fullest, after cutting his teeth as an apprentice with one of Perth’s best-known butcheries, Frank Torre & Sons.
In 1965, he attended ‘butcher school’ where he says his manners and service-focus set him apart from his classmates.
“That first year I won apprentice of the year,” Mr Garreffa says.
“That led to more self confidence and gave me the determination to follow my dream.”
Amid establishing and developing his family run business into what is now the popular Mondo di Carne (‘World of Meat’), or Mondos as it’s affectionately known to his devoted clientele, Mr Garreffa diversified his operations beyond the traditional butcher’s offerings.
He pursued innovative avenues of business, often against the recommendations of those entrenched in the industry, to include elements such as value-added meats, catering services, cooking classes and seasonal mini-markets (held at the rear of his Inglewood shop in spring).
He even set up a wholesale and export arm, and with the help of his son, Robert (who quit his job as a chartered accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers about seven years ago to become a partner in the business), Mondos now delivers fine meats to restaurants as far away as Dubai and New York.
The company, which started with just two employees (Mr Garreffa and his wife, Anne) now employs between 40 and 60 staff and turns over $10 million each year.
Despite early fears he could possibly lose the $35,000 in start-up loans generously provided by his brother, Mr Garreffa says he “felt like a lion” when he opened the original Mondos in Midland in 1979.
“Back then, there was nothing that could stop me,” he says.
The Midland store boomed and quickly grew in reputation and size, employing seven butchers within its first year, and restaurants soon began approaching Mr Garreffa for supply contracts.
But he says, out of respect, he initially refused the restaurants as he didn’t want to cut into anyone else’s business, especially those he had worked under as an apprentice.
Continued approaches from restaurants and reassurances from his butchery colleagues eventually changed his mind and he began supplying a handful of venues in the early 1980s.
But it was a chance encounter in 1988 with Brunswick Junction farmer, David Partridge, that Mr Garreffa says led to supplying some of the country’s, and arguably the world’s, best restaurants with his cuts of high-grade veal.
Renowned chef Neil Perry, from Sydney’s Rockpool restaurant, (now a close family friend who was on hand when Mondos reopened following a $750,000 refurbishment in 2007) was Mr Garreffa’s first customer when the business starting retailing White Rocks Veal, an exclusive joint venture between Mr Garreffa and Mr Partridge.
While there are no signs of slowing down, Mr Garreffa says he has plans for a book, aptly titled The Flesh in my Life about his 45 years in the meat business, and has at least one more dream to see fulfilled.
“I suppose that’s the ultimate dream, to have the Pope eat White Rocks Veal for lunch one day, even if he doesn’t have to pay for it,” he says.