An interview with Dean Sholl, traditionalist and founder of Empire Steak, on his mission to bring back the steak sandwich. 


"It's steak in a sandwich not a steak sandwich."

After 20 years in the industry, having been around since the early days of The Pound Café, Empire Steak founder and traditionalist Dean Sholl chats to BrandWorks about Polly Waffles and the importance of being on trend. And yet here we find him, ahead of the curve.

The Empire Steak menu, which includes the Anti-Steak (Panko crumb, polenta flour mushroom), spent decades in percolation and a solid seven months’ refinement in a dedicated test kitchen. Sholl’s innovative steak cooking technique took another four years to get right. The result? It’s seriously out of this world.

On the brand

BW.  Tell us about the birth of Empire Steak.

D. I had a real strong vision of what it needed to be – it had to be authentic. By virtue of really setting up our values and having a solid understanding of what our personality was, it allowed us to navigate and deflect what was on trend. We love what we do, and we know who we are. By ticking off our values, our choices became simple. Our values of authenticity and timelessness remain very inclusive. I think we can all feel when something is authentic – you get a sense for it, you can taste it immediately.


On the menu

BW. Well, we’re finding it delicious! What about doing something premium in a fast paced environment? Do you have secret cooking techniques…?

D. We have such a high quality product – our product is 100% grass fed and 100% free range. We use a premium cut as well – a porterhouse – so that’s already half the battle. And I’ve worked out a way to cook it that allows for complete consistency…

BW. Is it a secret?

D. (Laughs) I really don’t want to give it away, we spent a lot of time perfecting this! Suffice to say it’s the healthiest, most environmentally friendly way to do it. 

BW. And effective.

D. Exactly. Like, our longest wait time is 8 minutes.


On produce

BW. Do you use locally sourced produce?

D. From Coldstream, Yarra Valley. We look at all our suppliers as partners, and it’s been great. They get it and they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re just as excited as us to be behind it!


On the future

BW. What’s next for Empire Steak?

D. We’re looking at another store in the city and one in South Yarra.

BW. How’s the journey so far?

D. We’re really excited to launch something that is truly Australian, something that we can really be proud of. We’re finding that customers are really responding to us!


Empire Steak is located at 61 Little Collins St. Melbourne

Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm


More about Empire Steak here...

The 5 Most Underrated Burgers in Melbourne

Scroll through the notes on my phone and you’ll find a formidable list of over 50 burger joints, Melbourne and beyond, with a good ninety percent of these ticked off with a burger emoji. My obsession with burgers, and the burger culture of Melbourne, ignited shortly after I returned from the US, ready to see what we could offer up to rival the In-n-Outs and Shake Shacks of the world.

Suffice to say, Melbourne has the goods.

Over the past year and a half, with the help of Instagram and the countless ‘Melbourne’s Best Burgers’ lists (which I constantly feel the need to critique), I’d like to think I’ve gained the credentials to weed out some of the best spots to grab a burger in our fair city. Everyone knows of the big players that constantly deliver the goods -Easey’s, Grand Trailer Park, Dandenong Pavilion- but there are plenty of other places that aren't as well known. Here is my list of 5 underrated places that deserve more credit for their contribution to the great burger culture of Melbourne.


Wonky Trolley - Errol Street, North Melbourne

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

Nestled inside an old Urban Burger chain, this joint deserves way more credit for their extremely consistent burgers. The 3051, repping the North Melbourne postcode, is always a winner, add pickles and jalapeños for that essential extra flavour. 


Burger Boy’s - Little Lonsdale Street, CBD

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

Operating out of DejaVu Bar on Little Lonsdale, Burger Boy’s aren’t too widely known, but they should be. Their Classic burger is all you need, with their incredible patties you’ll never leave unsatisfied. Add a side of ridiculously crispy chips to top that off.


Lazerpig - Peel Street, Collingwood

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

Lazerpig is known for their amazing wood fired pizzas, and rightly so. But what you wouldn’t expect from this place is an absolutely banging cheeseburger. The Lazerpig Cheeseburger has all the simple ingredients, and with an extra patty and some bacon, with a side of hand cut fries you can’t go wrong for flavour. 


The Beer and Burger Bar - Swan Street, Richmond

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

If you want massive burgers, well-cooked, look no further than this joint. It gets a lot of local love but not near enough recognition in the top lists. The Beast is the pick of the bunch with double beef, cheese and bacon. If you’re feeling super hungry, these guys also do THE DON challenge which involves an insane 2kg+ burger with a massive side of chips.


Mr. Scruffs - Smith Street, Collingwood

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

Despite not being a burger joint per se, Mr. Scruffs more than holds their own. The Beef Burger is perfectly balanced with all the best ingredients that should hold its own in any Top 10. They also do some crazy things with their Chewsday burger specials if you’re into something more exotic like jalapeño poppers, chilli, brisket and pulled pork.