When former engineer Robert Caslick decided to roll his barbeque out of his garden in Kings Cross and start serving free food to those experiencing homelessness, his aim was simply to offer a little happiness.
Those backyard barbeques soon grew into Sydney’s first organic soup kitchen, and is now Two Good Co, a multifaceted social enterprise working to support women at risk of domestic violence and homelessness. It’s known for its buy-one-give-one salads and soups – for every meal bought, Two Good Co donates another to a local women’s refuge. But it’s also launched a cookbook and self-care products, and trains at-risk women with the skills they need to work in hospitality roles, including in its own catering arm.
Now, Two Good Co has evolved again and opened its first cafe, a bronze-trimmed space in a newly refurbished heritage-listed former church. It’s serving its signature soups and salads, alongside monthly specials from some of Australia’s best-known chefs. As ever, proceeds are used to continue Two Good’s mission to empower at-risk women.
Two Good Co’s cafe is one of a number of social-impact businesses found in Yirranma Place, a new hub founded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that works to break cycles of disadvantage. The historic building has undergone a major refurbishment by architecture firm SJB. The cafe’s sandstone walls are complemented with marble countertops and copper features, the drinks menu is listed on a wooden panel, and a wide metal column stacked with cakes, pies and tarts fresh from the oven occupies the centre of the room.
The kitchen, headed up by Heather Cook, continues Two Good’s legacy of working with some of the world’s most renowned chefs (Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi are past collaborators), with monthly toasties, salads and baked treats from Australia’s leading cooks and restaurateurs. The June and July specials come from Darren Robertson (Three Blue Ducks chef and co-owner) and include a cauliflower-cheese toastie; an Italian sausage, pear, lentil and watercress salad; and a chocolate cookie. Cookbook author Belinda Jeffery will contribute recipes during August, and Aria’s Matt Moran will help curate the September menu.
Aside from the celebrity partnerships and a few core employees, the team is made up of graduates of Two Good Co’s Work Work program. It trains women at risk of homelessness with hospitality skills, offers them a supportive community, and employs them in above-award-rate roles.
“We’ve always seen the kitchen as a vehicle to help women feel creatively and financially empowered, but our graduates have such diverse skill sets – we want to provide them with the skills and access to roles that will help them thrive,” Jo Rosenberg, Two Good Co’s food operations manager, tells Broadsheet.
The cafe serves coffee from social enterprise Kua, and Two Good’s cookbooks, gifts and candles (designed in partnership with Maison Balzac) are also sold on-site.
Several beautiful artworks have also been commissioned for Yirranma Place. The tall sandstone columns at the front are flanked by steel gates designed by Barkandji elder Badger Bates in collaboration with artisan blacksmith Matt Mewburn, and the ceiling above the entrance is painted with a complex Dreamtime story mural. A striking colourful rug designed specifically for the space by Naja Utzon Popov (granddaughter of Opera House architect Jørn Utzon) dominates the vast foyer space, which is currently also home to an exhibition comprising artwork by female Aboriginal artists.
Two Good Co Cafe
Yirranma Place, 262 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm