Boris and Erin Stefan have started Stefans Balkan Grill at Booval.
Boris and Erin Stefan have started Stefans Balkan Grill at Booval. Cordell Richardson

New European restaurant opens in Ipswich

A NEW restaurant has opened in Ipswich with a distinct European flavour.

Erin and Boris Stefan moved to Ipswich from Sydney three and a half months ago to live out their dream of opening a traditional Balkan restaurant.

Boris is from Croatia and learnt all his cooking skills from family.

The couple have opened Stefans Balkan Grill in the tenancy at Booval previously occupied by a dessert lounge.

But there's more to this couple's business plan than serving up delicious food.

Last year Erin, 30, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Known as a pineal brain tumour, the mass is in the centre of her brain.

If the tumour keeps growing, it could block her spinal fluid and she will die within 24 hours.

To pay for surgery she needs $100,000.

Erin is determined to earn the money herself and hopes the restaurant will be popular enough to provide enough income to raise the cash.

She said being diagnosed gave her the courage to take a chance and start a business.

"I haven't told many people about my situation," Erin said.

"When it comes to starting the business, I figured it's now or never.

"For me it's really important that people have the courage to live and sometimes people need to realise you're only going to live once, so why wait?

"At least if I fail, I will know I tried."

About one and a half years ago Erin started having symptoms.

She suffered chronic headaches, light sensitivity, numbness in her fingers and feet and short-term memory loss.

"I started getting a bit mentally confused.

"They were testing me for MS.

"If it continues to grow, I could have seizures, my cerebral spinal fluid could be blocked off and I will be dead in 24 hours.

"It also might not grow and I could just be stuck with the symptoms I have, or it could turn out to be cancer and spread.

"No one can really give me an answer."

At 1.6mm, the mass in Erin's brain is bigger than most other known cases with the tumour usually about .5mm.

"I used to work in disability and mental health and I worked with people who overcame challenges.

"It was all about enabling people to have the best quality of life.

"I said to myself, if I am going to do it, I will figure out ways to make it work."

Boris does the heavy lifting and fitted out the new shop, mostly by himself.

He also handles the cooking side of the business, relying on traditional recipes handed down from his family.

Already the pair have received a huge amount of support from the Ipswich community, even though no one knew Erin's story.

"That's why I feel so blessed," she said.

"I have chosen the right place. We never had that type of experience (of support) in Sydney.

"I feel like this is home so much more because of that."

You'll find Stefans Balkan Grill at 132 Brisbane Rd, Booval.



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