Darcy Street Project Cafe: Midtown MacPark cafe opens

19 January 2021

An entrepreneur with Argentinian blood has opened a cafe complete with its very own barbecue. But that’s not the only thing that makes this new cafe stand out.

John Cafferatta has two loves: coffee and barbecues.

He’s blended those two passions together, along with his burning desire to help those who are living it rough, to create The Darcy Street Project.

Darcy Street Project is a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged young people break the cycle of homelessness, unemployment and social exclusion through coffee, food and education.

After years of working as a TAFE teacher in jails and socially disadvantaged schools, the 39-year-old came up with the idea when he saw some young people in the system struggling to get a job.

“I was delivering hundreds of courses and it seemed like a never ending cycle of students being pushed in short courses and not really achieving what outcomes they had set out to achieve,” he said.

Darcy Street Project Midtown MacPark

Trainee Zachary Wise and John Cafferatta (founder of social enterprise Darcy Street Project) at Midtown Macpark. Picture / Monique Harmer

“Nine out of 10 people wanted a job and didn’t have time to do a six month short course or qualification.”

Cafferatta saw a need to “bridge the gap” between vocational education and what was happening in industry with innovation, technology and real practice.

“I thought. should I set myself the target to not just talk the talk but actually walk it – and run a shop based on the philosophy to help others get jobs.

“That was a huge project that I thought could work but I wasn’t certain.”

Six years on and he hasn’t looked back.

The Baulkham Hills man now runs a training school, roastery, a site in Pitt Street and has recently opened a cafe at Midtown MacPark in Sydney’s north.

The Macquarie Park cafe, situated next to Midtown MacPark’s sales building, features plenty of outdoor seating which overlooks a new playground as well as an outdoor kitchen equipped with a barbecue. 

Cafferatta, whose parents came from Argentina, said he loves having the outdoor kitchen style because it takes him back to his childhood.

“I grew up in social housing and we didn’t really have much but the one thing we really enjoyed as a family was our weekly barbecue.

“Barbecuing for me is embedded in Australian culture but it’s also an international language that everyone speaks.”

Cafferatta said about 70 per cent of his staff at the new Macquarie Park cafe are local and most have come out as students through his training facility at Moorebank.

Rather than a side job between studies, he said the focus was for the students to gain “transferable skills” such as communication, problem solving and financial literacy that they can apply in any industry.

Cafferatta is now looking at doubling the number of cafe employees in the next six months and has also introduced food at the cafe – a first for the business.

When asked how Macquarie Park compares to his previous cafe locations in Parramatta, he said it’s been a welcome change.

He said the locals have been “so warming” and a playground just next to the cafe has also helped attract a lot of young families.

“In the past we have always been situated in densely populated CBDs so we’ve always attracted business people and emergency services.

“With Macquarie Park it’s been nothing but families and it’s been a lovely refreshing change.”

Darcy Street Project Cafe is part of Frasers $2.2 billion Midtown MacPark masterplan which will feature 3,300 apartments, an aged care facility and new school when complete.

Construction of a 24-storey tower MAC Residences is set to start this July for completion in early 2023.

Darcy Street Project Cafe

1 Ivanhoe Place, Midtown MacPark

Macquarie Park


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