Taken from The Canberra Times Saturday July 17th
Honour for pizza pioneer
THE distinguished restaurateur known as "Gentleman Jim", described as the first to bring pizza to Canberra, will be honoured with the unveiling of his portrait on Monday. James Savoulidis of the local Greek community, known in Canberra as the founder of Plaka restaurant, has been painted by artist Peter Engel. The portrait is to be unveiled at Wilbur's Cafe Bar in Hackett. Savoulidis, born in Greece, grew up during the Great Depression and was in 1938 sent to Australia by parents who wanted a better life for him. In 1959 he settled in· Canberra and opened a number of businesses in the city starting with the Mondial Nightclub in East Row. During the '60s he helped many Greek families who had migrated to Australia to get established. In 1971 he established the Plaka restaurant in Mawson where Gough Whitlam was a regular patron. He taught Whitlam to dance the Zorba. Engel's previous portraits include that of former Commonwealth ombudsman Professor John McMillan, journalist Virginia Haussegger, former politician Kerrie Tucker and Colin Slater of Sing Australia.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the above unveiling on Monday 19th July.
We have known the Savoulidis family since early 1989, and they are more family than friend to us.
The following photos, newspaper clippings and some of the words from the artist, make up our tribute to Gentleman Jim and his Family.
James & Helen-----Vicky Savoulidis & David Pring-------Lorraine Pring & Vicky Savoulidis
Pic 3-----Nasi Savoulidis
James Savoulidis-----Steve Stavros Savoulidis
Pic 2----Crystal, Stavros & Eleni Savoulidis Pic 3 Artist Peter Engel
Speech by artist Peter Engel
Good evening everyone - I'm Peter Engel, the artist and I would like to welcome you to the unveiling of the portrait of James Savoulidis. A special welcome of course to James and his wife Helen, their children Steve, Arthur and Andrew. Vicky and Geraldine and children.
The purpose of the portrait is to pay tribute in a small way to the life and achievements of James but in the process to have some fun. While James is the subject of the painting, he has not seen it nor has any members of his family! So this is very much a high stakes game for James and me. As an amateur artist I could quite easily get this very wrong - seriously as I have said at previous unveilings, 'failure is well within my reach!' This is either going to be a great hit and I will be a friend of the family for life, or I'll have to find somewhere else to have my coffee in the mornings. So there is a fair degree of anticipation and anxiety tonight!
Before I say a few words about James and the portrait, I want to just restate my artistic objectives. For the past few years I've painting Canberra identities as part of a series. So far they include the former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, Virginia Haussegger, Ron Cahill the former ACT Chief Magistrate, former politician Kerrie Tucker and Colin Slater from Sing Australia. John was the first major portrait I undertook and he has been at all of the unveilings since then and he is here again tonight -thankyou John. Colin is also here tonight – welcome Colin
All of these people have made a contribution to the Canberra Community in some way or another and so too has James Savoulidis. He has contributed significantly to the Greek community in Canberra but also to the wider community via the numerous restaurants he has established including the Plaka where he came to know many of the politicians of the time including Gough Whitlam who he taught how to do the Zorba. He also established the Mondial Night Club in East row and was the first restaurateur to bring pizza to Canberra with the Pizzeria in Garema Place in the early 60s. These businesses were some of the first beginnings of a much more diverse cultural and culinary landscape in Canberra that we enjoy today.
To be an innovator and to be the first to achieve something in any field of endeavour says a lot about Jim. Obviously he was a risk taker, with entrepreneurial spirit and strong self belief. These attributes he has obviously passed on to his 3 sons with the most recent example being the establishment of this fantastic facility. Not only has he been successful professionally, in partnership with his wife Helen he has been successful in marriage and in raising a family and forming an extended network of friends. He is unassuming and has obviously dealt well with people over the years earning him the nickname 'Gentleman Jim'.
He was sent to Australia by his parents when he was just 18 in the hope that it would provide a better life for him. I think we can definitely say that his parents' wishes have been fulfilled.
So how to translate all this into this portrait. The main objective with any portrait is to peel off the outer layers that we all have to protect ourselves and show something of the inner being. I hope I have done that with this painting. It's very informal and shows Jim at his most relaxed. I hope it shows a balance of the determination and commitment and entrepreneurial spirit but tempered by a sense of contentment he must now feel in having achieved so much in his life.
So here we go, and remember the strength of your applause will indicate how successful the painting is!!