In 2015, the Mexican-inspired Two Wolves: Community Cantina opened on Broadway with a swag of hospitality pros behind it, including Ben Sweeten of Meet Joe Black, Rose Bay Diner, Kansas City Shuffle and more; designer Michael Delaney; and Fraser Short of Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room. But it was originally Father David Braithwaite’s idea.
Braithwaite runs young-adult ministries for Jesuits. The Chippendale restaurant is a social enterprise, by The Cardoner Project, a Jesuit and Catholic volunteering program for young people. It helps disadvantaged communities around the world. Two Wolves Cantina, run by volunteers, raises funds for its different projects.
Last year 172 people donated more than 10,000 hours of their time in the restaurant and raised $139,400 for disadvantaged communities in Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal and Cambodia.
The menu takes inspiration from Mexico. Agave-and-chilli-glazed wings are served alongside tacos, burritos and the “Mexican Snack Pack”, which features Tajin-seasoned fries, corn chips, grated Manchego cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, chipotle mayo, with pulled pork, chicken or chilli con carne. Bar manager David Quaglia has been part of the project since it opened. “Father David came up with the idea but gave us the agency to start it ourselves,” he says. “His thing is to give young people the tools to start their own social enterprises.”
The restaurant now has a social-inclusion program that involves employing people with learning difficulties. Soon it will also partner with a Jesuit refugee service. “We’re hoping to invite in refugees who have just arrived in Australia, give them hospitality skills and help them to transition to full-time work,” says Quaglia.
A new aspect of the venture is the op shop. Jacinta Mitchell, who runs the shop, says she says was thinking of ways to raise more money for the restaurant that didn’t have overhead costs. “I asked all our volunteers to donate clothing and we started having regular pop-up shops,” she says. It now happens four times a year, at the beginning and end of the uni semester, in the laneway next to the restaurant. In 2017 the organisation raised around $3500 to paint a school in Zambia, and for an orphanage in Vietnam for children with disabilities.
This lateral thinking has extended in different directions. Volunteers visiting Thailand learnt from locals that conditions there were perfect for growing vanilla. “So we’re now importing organic vanilla under our brand and selling it to restaurants in Sydney,” says Quaglia.
They now have plans to open two more restaurants, one in Australia and one overseas. “The social enterprise is a business model for the future,” says Mitchell. “We want to show people it’s a sustainable and feasible way to run a business. Our profit has a purpose, to give back to disadvantaged communities. We’re making ground because we’re showing people that it’s an option.”