PJ's Steaks, QLD

Authentic American: How the Philly Cheesesteak Came To Be In West End

PJ’s Steaks on Boundary Street in West End Brisbane is peppered with American paraphernalia such as a NY number plate, and Yankees baseball and flag. The quirky restaurant is still going strong since it opened in 2012.

Uncle and nephew duo PJ Chang and James Chung did the near impossible with a start-up: they broke even in the first month. But they both attest that this is because of their unique product offering.

Back in 2000, PJ first tried the incredible cheesesteak, which originated from Philadelphia on the east coast of America and the idea of being able to provide this kind of food offering himself, began to surface.

“From the first mouthful, I was really intrigued by it because I’ve never tasted anything like it before,” says PJ. “It’s a combination of every guy’s favourite foods: meat and cheese. It’s just simple dude food that tastes good.”

From his first encounter with Philly cheesesteak, PJ scoured the globe to locate the best spot to bring this authentic flavour to. From Europe to Asia to New Zealand, PJ finally decided on Australia.

“Aussies really love their meat and they are also renowned for it, so I knew they would appreciate it,” PJ says. “But the main thing is that there is nothing like it here; it’s really different.”

When I see people enjoying my food, it makes me really happy.

In 2006, PJ came to Australia to do market research and then migrated from Korea in 2008. He continued to do more background research on how to set up the business.

While it was PJ’s dream to bring American food to the people of Brisbane, it was his nephew James who helped with the finer details to pull it all together.

PJ and James both laughed when asked if starting up a business cost more than they originally anticipated.

“Absolutely, it did!” PJ says. “There was so much that we hadn’t properly accounted for and if there’s one thing to count on, it’s that even if you’ve planned out everything to the last detail, something will crop up that will throw you for a loop if you don’t have spare cash.”

“This was a big factor in us choosing to rent our equipment [through Silver Chef], rather than outlay the huge cost up front,” PJ explains. “Plus we hadn’t tried Australian equipment before so we weren’t sure how it was going to go. It was better for us to try the equipment first, to make sure it was right for us and our business, and then we could buy or upgrade later on.”

PJ and James both agree that having a unique product has really helped in their success.

“I think there’s something like five Greek kebab shops in this street alone! My advice to others is to tap into a niche market with your own speciality and you’ll find it much easier to survive,” PJ says.

PJ & James
PJ's Steak, QLD

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