Adam says thanks and goodbye

Adam Sadiqzai and his company Khans Hospitality are saying goodbye to the Cardinia Cultural Centre after a long reign. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Garry Howe

Adam Sadiqzai and his business Khans Catering have been operating out of the Cardinia Cultural Centre for as long as it has operated.

He remembers surveying the site when it was just a paddock – no lake at Lakdeside and not a house in sight.

So it was with a heavy heart that Khans packed up the Vista Café and moved out on Sunday, bumping in briefly on Tuesday to help out with the big Wiggles crowd.

“Leaving here is certainly bitter-sweet,”” Adam told the Gazette. “We would have rather have stayed but a change in direction made that difficult.

“We have an emotional attachment to this place. I personally have made lifelong friendships through our work here. I am grateful for those connections and will still be involved in the community.”

It was a sense of community that brought Adam and his family from the inner city to the South East all those years ago.

He saw the potential growth out this way and thought it was the ideal place to raise his family, so he relocated with wife Victoria and children Atia, Rahart, Zamina and Imran.

“It has been wonderful seeing Cardinia and Pakenham become the place that it is,” Adam said. “There is comfort in working with people so community based and community oriented – and as we leave it’s important that we acknowledge and thank the community for their support.

“That was one of the drivers of my decision to come here. I thought it was best for my family and my children to be a part of that.”

Adam laughs that he had been here 10 years and was still not considered a local.

“Now we’ve been here almost 20 years, surely we’re getting close now.”

Adam quickly immersed himself in the community.

He was part of the original planning for the establishment of the Cardinia Foundation – joining then council CEO Don Welsh and fellow business people Andrew Facey and Sam Castello as the key drivers.

The foundation has since raised millions for worthwhile initiatives and projects throughout the region.

The first meeting of the Cardinia Casey Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch was held at the cultural centre and Khans have been at the centre of the six events since 2014 that have raised over $560,000 for prostate cancer and men’s health.

Adam has also sat on the board of the Ace Foundation, helping school children in need, and social enterprise Outlook in the disability space. He was also a board member of Casey Cardinia Tourism and is currently Honorary Investment Consul in Australia for Pakistan, a position of which he is extremely proud.

Apart from the official roles, Adam and his team have opened their facilities up during times of flood and fire and are always willing to help a good cause.

At the time of the Bunyip State Park blaze in 2019, Khans chefs were sent to the stating area Nar Nar Goon to help feed the weary firefighters.

“I believe we have a responsibility to give back to the community,” he said.

Adam is also proud that a lot of his staff have been there for the long haul, notably his right-hand person John Barbaressoss, along with the likes of Leonie Clark, Bron Arnold and Naomi ???.

He is now seeking the next generation coming through, with Leonie and Bron’s children now on the payroll.

“We have witnessed young people become young adults and to have a lot of long term staff in hospitality is pretty rare.”

His children have also served their time in the kitchen or behind the counter.

They have grown up around the place. Youngest child Imran was born around the same time Khans started at the cultural centre.

Daughter Zamina has been down over the past few weeks saying goodbye to the regular customers.

Among those is community stalwart Jack Mitchell. Adam was overseas when Jack’s wife Marg passed away a few years back, but his children were at the funeral in his absence.

“We’ve been accepted by the community and that is just fantastic,” Adam said.

“I never thought back then when all this began that we would see the diversity of this community. To witness that growth has been a great experience.”

Although sad to leave, Adam is not one to dwell on the past.

“We are not lost to the region,” he said. “Please come and say hello to us at Stella’s Kitchen at Montague Orchards in Lysterfield, which is an exciting new venture for Khans Hospitality.

“I am looking forward to building a strong relationship with Montague family. They are another strong family company and our values align.”