Building A Butter Culture Around Hip Hop And Fried Chicken

Editorial Team | Interviews

Fusing food, hip-hop and sneaker culture, the team behind Butter Sydney are finding new ways to make money, even when their doors are closed.

Celebrating the opening of a third venue in Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre to complement their other popular joints in Surry Hills and Paramatta, Butter founder and co-owner Julian Cincotta says it’s not just the delicious chook, home-made doughnuts, fried chicken Ramen or top-notch cocktails that keep customers coming back, it’s the culture Butter represents.

“This is the stuff we grew up with,” Cincotta exclaims, a huge grin splitting his face in two, proudly wearing a black hoodie from his line of Butter clothing. “These things are our loves, a fusion between street and luxury, high and low; a community built around food and retail.”

Having cut his teeth at fine dining establishment Rockpool, Cincotta is not your average fry cook, he’s a highly trained chef with family roots in the hospitality industry. His father had a string of Big Rooster chicken shops when he was a child, and it was in these kitchens that he developed an appreciation for how restaurants are successfully run. Over his career, he developed his recipe for the type of venue he hoped to one day call his own.

“You can’t just be a restaurant anymore.
You need to be able to make money
when your doors are closed.”

His first foray was as a co-owner of Thievery, an elevated Lebanese-inspired eatery in Glebe in Sydney’s inner west, before going on to co-found Butter in 2016. “When I was at Rockpool you would go to a restaurant, you have a fine meal and an experience and that was it. Social media has opened that up. People are looking for something different. We’re not so stricken by those old rules anymore.”

Butter shows how bringing complementary revenue streams together can aid in building a brand that represents more than just one thing. Butter’s Chatswood Chase location benefits from a bolstered retail space that sells collectable sneakers on consignment, as well as their brand of apparel.

Art, neon tubes and Butter branded basketballs line the walls alongside copious bottles of Champagne and Hennessy, all-loving nods to the cork-popping extravagance of the hip-hop subculture from which Butter is derived and pays homage. “We have art exhibitions, music gigs, we throw parties, we sell epic chicken, serve awesome drinks. These things come together to make something unique and distinctly us,” he says.

“You need a story, something you’re
behind. Your drive, your love, your passion.”

Cincotta says that when people go out and spend their hard-earned money, they want more than just good food and that Covid-19 allowed the team to reconnect with suppliers, artists and work with other businesses. “This year we’ve launched a ramen series with six other chefs. That helps us to rep Sydney.” It’s paying dividends. Many of the side projects started during the lockdown of 2020 are now a key part of Butter’s offering in 2021.

The company considers itself as greater than any individual venue and is always looking to expand its offering. The team are even considering trialling an NFT clothing collection off the back of an explosion in non-fungible token technology, demonstrating their digital-first approach to brand building. “We’re working on packaged goods and sauces for taking home, being creative so we can create revenue when we’re closed.

“Australians have a tall poppy syndrome so doing things outside of the norm can be hard but the most enjoyable things we’ve ever done have been pushing the boundaries and working outside of standard ways of doing things.

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