Silver Teapots and Serviettes: Samios Foods

Guest blogger: Toni Risson, 2016 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow

Peter Samios and his nephews. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Frank Zantiotis, Peter Samios, and Peter Zantiotis. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

While thousands of Greeks worked behind café counters, Peter Samios came to Australia in 1922 and established a business supplying cafés with milkshake machines, monogrammed crockery, engraved sugar bowls, Bex, lollies etc. Peter first sold olives and olive oil from the basement of the Greek Club in Charlotte Street. In this microcosm of Greek culture, he formed relationships with newcomers who would run soon be running cafés.

Peter registered Samios Foods in 1934. Three years later his fifteen-year-old nephew Frank Zantiotis joined him, and Frank’s brother Peter arrived in 1939. While one worked at Charlotte Street, the others toured Queensland cafés with samples, catalogues and order books. After spending months filling and shipping these orders, tents were pitched at Wellington point, where Greeks gathered to eat, drink and play cards, dance to Greek music, and enjoy ocean-fresh seafood. The quality of the mullet roe in Moreton Bay was comparable with that of the Mediterranean, and soon Peter and Frank were harvesting, processing and distributing mullet roe internationally.

Camping at Wellington Point. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Camping at Wellington Point. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Of Brisbane’s early Greek businesses, only Samios Foods remains. In the mid-1960s, city customers became its primary market, and from 1971, when the business moved to Woolloongabba, it was open to the public. Since 2012 Frank’s children have operated from new premises in Coorparoo. They hold an archive that documents their history: ledgers, photographs, a plate with sample monograms, and a suitcase that travelled with the Samios Foods reps around country Queensland. Interest in ethnic food exploded with Expo 88, and now two thirds of customers are non-Greek, drawn by Samios Foods’ popular café, expansive deli—the oldest in Brisbane—and array of imported and gourmet foods. Olive oil was once a chemist line but Brisbane is now enamoured with the multicultural foods Peter Samios pioneered over eighty years ago from a basement in Charlotte Street.

Samios private collection. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Samios private collection. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Samios at Woollongabba. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Samios at Woollongabba. Photograph courtesy of the Zantiotis family

Photographs courtesy of the Zantiotis family

An expanded version of this story on Greek cafés in Brisbane.

Toni Risson

Toni Risson was the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow in 2016.

Discover more of Toni Risson’s research –