The rise of Mt Gambier’s Metro Bakery and Café

Two years ago, Mt Gambier’s Metro Bakery and Café was named the nation’s best bakery/patisserie at the Restaurant & Catering Association Awards.

Toni Vorenas heard the whispers from the crowd as the unsuspecting squad of South Aussies walked on stage.

“Everyone was saying ‘What’s Metro? Where on earth is Mt Gambier?” she laughs.

Just ask any Limestone Coast local and they will point you in the direction of this main street eating institution in the heart of the Blue Lake city.

Expect queues; the business now takes up five premises in order to cater for demand.

Aside from the lure of the baked treats and goods, Metro Bakery is a vibrant and quirky hotspot for wall art.

“When we opened at the end of 2009, it was my husband Theo’s dream to have a little coffee shop,” Toni says.

“We started from scratch and had no hospitality experience – Theo was a mechanic and I was a teacher – and we had a single room with one table, one coffee machine and five sandwiches on the menu.

“Now, we’ve expanded into the two shops beside us and one behind, added a bar, two commercial kitchens and an outdoor dining area.”

There’s also a second smaller venue, A Slice of Metro, at the eastern end of town, for customers on the go.

A former deputy principal, Toni counts many of her students among their 44 staff, but Metro has also attracted talent from much further afield, including three Filipino pastry chefs who have worked in Paris, Dubai and Sydney’s Star Casino.

Metro Bakery and Café owner Toni Vorenas with some of the delectable sweet treats.

“We advertised all over Australia for chefs without success, so then we turned to an immigration company,” Toni says.

“We are so lucky – they came with enormous skills and they are teaching them to our local kids.”

The Metro ethos is ‘one family’, and the staff are incredibly close. Toni and Theo have nurtured the sense of camaraderie with their strong focus on wellbeing.

“Last year we paid for yoga lessons, and this year we funded 10 weeks of boot camp; it’s not just about knock-off drinks, and that’s the old teacher in me,” Toni says.

“They have become one another’s closest friends.”

Desserts almost too good to eat. Photo by Frank Monger.

The sense of family extends to the customers, many of whom visit daily for a coffee fix, meal or take-away sourdough loaf.

Metro is the regular meeting spot for book clubs, park runners, mothers’ groups and live music fans, with a growing number of performers stopping by on their travels from Melbourne to Adelaide.

They all contribute to the Metro vibe, which Toni and Theo sum up by the Greek word ‘Kefi’.

It’s a vibe so powerful that many staff, including Toni, have the word tattooed on their skin, such is their devotion to this magnetic place they have created.

“Kefi means spirit and passion for life – that moment when you let go of everything that isn’t important and embrace everything that is – family, life, love, and joy,” Toni says.

“That’s what we encourage here.”

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Adelaide Hills watering holes reborn into bustling, stylish pubs

Adelaide Hills couple Julie and Ed Peter are behind the successful revamps of the Crafers and Uraidla hotels, both of which have helped transform the faces of the respective towns.

Both establishments now do a roaring trade on weekends and have helped introduce scores of food and wine lovers to the quiet and leafy area which once thrived on large-scale vegetable market gardening.

Last week, the couple’s renovation efforts paid off, with the Crafers Hotel crowned the Best Overall Hotel in South Australia at the 2018 Australian Hotel Association (AHA) SA Hotel Industry Awards for Excellence.

The dining hotspot also took awards for Best Superior Hotel Accommodation, Best Redeveloped Hotel, Best Apprentice Development and Training, and was a joint winner for Best Bistro (Metropolitan).

Photo by Julie Peter.

The Uraidla Hotel was also a joint winner for Best Bar Presentation and Experience (Metropolitan).

Julie and Ed, who also run wine various businesses including Kaesler in the Barossa Valley, purchased the Crafers Hotel in 2014 with shareholders Brett and Sarah Matthews and Jodi and Scott Brumby.

Over three years they transformed the historic yet rundown establishment into a French-inspired and stylish gastropub, offering local produce and a wine list featuring drops from as close as Balhannah and Kuitpo and as far as Burgundy, France.

The menu boasts a strong focus on local produce, from Smoky Bay oysters, SA mussels and locally caught squid.

“Nowadays, hotels are more food-based with higher quality offerings,” says Julie.

“I think now people are more discerning about what they’re eating and drinking.

“On our busiest day we put on close to 200 meals at Crafers.

“Sundays are our busiest, people love to have Sunday lunches.”

Photo by Julie Peter.

In 2016, 5km away in Uraidla, the Peters purchased the Uraidla Hotel, a pub seeping in history but left in a ghostly and abandoned state for many years.

The 151-year-old establishment was brought back to life, with the insides stripped bare and Julie collecting antique pieces to spruce up the interior, including vintage lamps that hang upside down from the high ceiling and beer kegs quirkily used as urinals.

The end result is a 1930s art deco style space, featuring a large front bar, upstairs function area and plush sofas by open fires.

With experience renovating houses in the Hills, France and Singapore, Julie says she is drawn to the character and history of old buildings.

“With the Uraidla Hotel, it had loads of character,” she says.

“The more derelict it was, the more I loved it.”

Photo by Julie Peter.

While both the Crafers and Uraidla hotels focus on delivering a high quality wining and dining experience, Julie says patrons can still feel at home.

“People use our hotels as an extension of their own living rooms,” she says.

“The concept at Crafers is that if you want to spend $10,000 on a bottle of wine you can.

“But you can also sit by the fire with a bag of chips. We just want people to feel comfortable.”

Next door to the hotel is the Uraidla Brewery and the Uraidla Republic café and bakery, also owned by the Peters.

The Uraidla Hotel, photo by Julie Peter.

Uraidla’s main street can also attribute its revival to the efforts of community group Imagine Uraidla, as well as the addition of the eclectic restaurant Lost in a Forest.

Uraidla’s general store has also undergone a recent upgrade.

Julie says the food and wine boost has been welcomed by local residents.

“I know that it (the success of the hotel) has stopped some people from moving away from Uraidla,” she says.

“It’s also benefited local employment because between Uraidla and Crafers we employ 100 people and many of them are from the area.”

The Crafers Hotel will go on to compete at the National AHA Awards on the Gold Coast in September.

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Fleurieu food business Home Grain Bakery is on a roll

Home Grain Bakery couple Toff and Cara West have mastered the recipe for success in South Australia’s small to medium enterprise sector.

Almost a decade ago, the Wests had no experience in business or bakeries when they decided to open a bakehouse in the former general store at Aldinga.

Now the pair are behind four successful Home Grain Bakery stores across the Fleurieu Peninsula and McLaren Vale, feeding scores of visitors with hot pies, pasties, cakes and other baked goods.

Toff and Cara West with two of their three children Trip and Meg outside one of the Home Grain Bakeries. PHOTO: Courtney McFarlane.

They admit launching a small business in the beach town south of Adelaide was a hard slog at first, with Cara at the time five months pregnant with the first of their three children.

“It’s been a challenge and we worked bloody hard, but I don’t think I’d do anything differently,” says Toff, who grew up on the Fleurieu.

“We wanted to have a place that we liked working in and people we liked working with.”

Home Grain Bakery has an overall workforce of about 70 people across its four stores, in Aldinga, Middleton, McLaren Flat, and a smaller ‘pop-up’ at Mt Compass.

Although the bakery is already on the way to becoming a Fleurieu food icon, the Wests want its reputation to stretch statewide.

“The short-term goal is to refine what we have been doing, pay down some debt and make sure we have the best business model as possible to grow,” Toff says.

“That will be a good place to be in by 2020.”

The Home Grain Bakery story begins when Toff and Cara met at Flinders University in 2007.

Cara, originally from the US state of Virginia, was on a semester-long student exchange when she sat next to Toff in a geography lecture.

Toff and Cara met in 2007 before marrying and launching their own business Home Grain Bakery four years later. PHOTO: Josie Withers.

“My parents told me not to fall in love and stay in Australia, but I did just that,” Cara laughs.

“I had never heard of SA until the exchange program and I’d never even had a sausage roll before.

“Now I don’t know how my kids would survive without them.”

Together they travelled the world, keeping a journal of “all the things we liked in coffee shops, bakeries and cafés”, with a dream of one day pursuing their own business venture.

It was after they married in 2010 and returned to SA when that dream fast became reality.

“We came back from a four-month honeymoon around the world and saw that the old general store in Aldinga was for sale,” Toff says.

“We thought it was a great spot for something and we knew that the town needed a welcoming place to get a good pie and coffee.

“We had no experience but were interested in business, so we hired a baker and opened a bakery. We just weren’t willing to sit back and watch someone else do it.”

The West family enjoying hot meat pies at Home Grain Bakery. PHOTO: Josie Withers.

While Cara handled the marketing side of Home Grain Bakery, Toff took over the general running of the business.

The pair was also mentored by fellow bakehouse Brighton Jetty Bakery and say the kind-hearted nature of others in the food industry attributed to their success.

“I think in business, there are two types of people,” Toff says.

“There are the ones who are willing to share with you their take on the industry, and then there are the ones who are quite secretive.

“Now we are very open and share what we do with anybody who asks, we’ve helped half-a-dozen other small businesses get up and running. It’s exciting for us to see others give it a go.”

Home Grain Bakery products are made from scratch, using the “best possible local ingredients”.

The bakery has long teamed up with the Fleurieu Milk Company, Laucke Flour Mills and Villeré Coffee, which have all supported them “from day one”.

“We use all our own recipes which means you can’t get our products anywhere else,” Toff says.

“During peak season we bake over 1000 pies and pasties a day at Aldinga to sell across all four bakeries.”

The Wests say a strong backing by the local community has helped their small business stay afloat, as has the reputation of SA’s premium food offerings.

“I think the quality of food here in SA is very high on a world scale,” Toff says.

“We have access to great produce and we have people who care about the food.

“That’s something that should be promoted to the world.”

To gain more insight into SA’s small to medium enterprise sector, join Brand South Australia’s Industry Briefing on April 10. Click here for more information.

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

Kytons turns 80, bakes half a million hot cross buns

Sugar and spice, Easter and hot cross buns, Darren and Sharon.

Some things are just meant to be together, and for South Australia’s Kytons Bakery duo Darren and Sharon Sutton, their business’s 80th year will be met with more hard work and truckloads of flour.

By Easter weekend, their Edwardstown bakehouse will have churned out 500,000 hot cross buns, made by a team of bakers from 18 tonnes of Laucke flour and several pallets of dried fruit.

Sharon says the longstanding bakery is “manic” in the lead up to Easter as its workforce swells from the usual 10 staff to 30 people who work around the clock to ensure South Australians can enjoy the spiced sweet buns on time.

Kytons will bake 500,000 hot cross buns in the lead up to Easter this year.

“In the last week before Easter we’re running for about 24 hours a day,” she says.

“Aside from the hot cross buns we also sell a lot of lamingtons, waffles and cookies.

“Products are piled up on pallets ready to be delivered, the music is usually up really loud and we’re working very long hours, but it’s a good time.”

In the past 80 years, Kytons has been through a few transformations and put a spin on a classic Easter treat.

Six years ago, a local radio station ran a campaign to discover a new flavour of hot cross buns.

The result was a Kytons and Robern Menz collaboration, with only 1000 Fruchoc hot cross bun packets made for the exclusive promotion that certainly caught on.

“People were queued up outside the radio station on Easter Thursday morning,” Sharon says.

“The Fruchoc hot cross bun has now become a part of people’s Easter tradition. I have a friend who takes them away every year and grills them on their barbecue, to melt the chocolate with that charred barbecue taste.”

Aside from hot cross buns, Kytons is also renowned for making the quintessential Australian cake, the lamington.

The Kytons wrapped, chocolate-dipped and coconut-sprinkled sponge cake has existed in children’s lunchboxes and pantry cupboards for decades.

The lamington is believed to have been invented in Australia in the late 1800s and named after Lord Lamington, who served as the Governor of Queensland until 1901.

“There are lots of stories but that’s the most plausible one,” says Sharon.

“They were invented by the cooks in government house in Queensland … they had guests for afternoon tea and all they had was dry cake.

“So they dipped it in chocolate to make it softer and then dipped it in coconut so they’re fingers wouldn’t get as sticky.”

Kytons lamingtons have twice been crowned best in the country, while the recipes used to make the cakes have remain relatively unchanged.

School children of the 1980s and ’90s would remember Kytons’ fundraising lamington drive, an initiative that would benefit thousands of community groups and projects over the years.

Kytons supplied sheets of sponge cake, chocolate dip and shredded coconut to schools, Scouts, Girl Guides and churches to make lamingtons, sell them and raise money.

“Kytons has become a part of the SA community whether it’s through the fundraising drives or just those habits like kids having a lamington in their lunchbox at school,” Sharon says.

“That’s something we’re really proud of and happy to be a part of people’s memories.”

Sharon Sutton is an I Choose SA ambassador.

The Kytons brand was established in SA in 1938 by the Hignett Brothers.

The catering company had a stall at the Adelaide Central Market in the 1940s before a bakehouse was built on Carrington Street in the 1950s.

In 1975 the business was sold to John and Carol Darwin but remained in the Central Market until 1988, selling cakes and buns.

In its 80 years, Kytons has only been sold twice.

The Suttons bought it in 2003 after owning a bakery at Flagstaff Hill for 10 years. Darren had worked at Kytons as a teenager, as his best mate’s father was the owner.

Darren baked, while Sharon – who has a university degree in politics – took over administration and marketing roles, later becoming the face of the bakery and an I Choose SA ambassador.

It’s not every day you’re on the back of a bus. Unless, you’re an I Choose SA ambassador of course!

The Suttons introduced Kytons products to Foodland and Woolworths supermarkets, cafés and greengrocers, while the fundraising drives now makes up about 25-30% of the business.

More recently Kytons has secured a NSW distributor, meaning Sydneysiders are set to enjoy the baked secrets of SA.

Sharon says she’s noticed that SA consumers are consistently eager to back local producers and makers, as seen with the the revival of Spring Gully in 2017.

“SA consumers are becoming very parochial about what they want to eat, where it comes from and the provenance behind it,” she says.

“The food community we have here in SA is the envy of other states.”

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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Goolwa Bakery pies want a slice of Asia

The Goolwa Bakery has made “food for the Fleurieu” for the past 105 years and now the long-established business is preparing to share its pies and pasties with Asia.

With help from Austrade, Goolwa Bakery owner Ben Hage is about to enter the Singaporean market after taking part in Business SA’s Export Ready Program recently.

Batches of pepper pies and pasties will be sent to Singapore in April 2018 for an international food and catering expo, with Ben also in discussion with an online Singaporean grocery retailer.

“The Goolwa Bakery has been going for 105 years, so it must be doing something right and why not share that with Asia?” he says.

“We need to step outside of our little comfort zone and explore.”

Goolwa Bakery will take its pepper pies and pasties to Singapore in April 2018.

The original Goolwa bakery is based in the seaside town, but within the past five years Ben has expanded the brand to four other sites across regional SA.

Stores are located at Hayborough and Stirling while the Seaford and McLaren Vale sites are both known as The Cottage Bakery.

All 120 products are baked at the original Goolwa Bakery site, with classic favourites including pepper pies, pasties, vanilla slices and chocolate eclairs.

“Our bakers start at 11pm–1am and then one of them leaves Goolwa at 2.30am to deliver the products to Stirling, then they’re back in Goolwa by 4.30–5am,” Ben says.

“We also have drivers who drop the products to the other stores seven days a week.

“Our head baker, Geoff Varcoe, he’s a Goolwa local and his attention to detail with the creams and cakes is absolutely outstanding.”

Head baker and Goolwa local Geoff Varcoe.

Established in 1912, the original Goolwa Bakery is one of the town’s longest running businesses.

It has changed hands a number of times, but many of the recipes have stayed the same.

Ben and his brother took it over five years ago from their parents who had owned it for six years prior.

Ben says opening the four other sites had provided year-round jobs for bakers and other staff.

“The biggest problem I saw (before opening four other sites) was that Goolwa Bakery is so seasonal due to everyone being down there in the summer,” he says.

“So the number of bakers went from six in peak season down to two in winter, which was hard to manage and wasn’t really creating a good workplace culture.

“So I thought, ‘how can we level out that rollercoaster of employment?’ The way to do that was to open a couple of other retail outlets by aiming for one new retail site a year.

All ingredients are sourced locally where possible, including eggs from Goolwa and meat and veggies from the Adelaide Hills.

“Now we employ seven bakers 52 weeks of the year and it’s gotten rid of that seasonality of the business.

“The workplace culture has improved because everyone is slightly more relaxed knowing they’re not getting cut when the peak season winds down.”

With the addition of four stores, the original bakery’s production volumes have also increased, prompting Ben to invest in two new ovens at Goolwa.

“We had the ‘old girl’, a six-deck oven that had been baking for 48 years,” Ben says.

“But she was so temperamental because she had hot spots and cold spots.

“Our bakers are a lot happier and our power bills have decreased.”

The original Goolwa Bakery is one of the town’s longest running business.

Ben says the Goolwa Bakery is strongly focused on delivering “the best food, best service and best culture”.

“Culture in a business is all about everyone working together and making it all happen,” he says.

“It’s not something that can be measured from KPIs and numbers, but it flows through to these things.

“It’s about the staff being on board, and if you’re front of house you need to provide the best service for the customers.

“We get good feedback and that’s why people keep coming back.”

Goolwa Bakery pastry is hand rolled, while ingredients are always sourced local where possible.

Whether in a quiet country town in South Australia or the skyscraper city of Singapore, Ben says it’s important for a meat pie to always be hot.

As for tomato sauce spilling onto one’s shirt mid-bite? Well, that’s inevitable.

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Small bakery has big ambitions for local grain industry

By Melissa Keogh

Langhorne Creek bread lovers Emily Salkeld and Chris Duffy have turned a simple passion for baking artisan loaves into an experiment set to fire up the local grain economy.

The duo behind the Fleurieu Peninsula’s Small World Bakery have launched themselves into the world of grain growing by sowing a variety of heritage wheats and grains on their property.

But it won’t be until 2019 until the couple grows enough grain to produce flour for their own bread production.

In 2016, the family including sons Tom and Ollie took a year off to travel to Europe and the US to source ancient grains, such as einkorn, emmer, spelt and khorasan, to plant at home.

PHOTO: Ben McMahon.

Emily Salkeld and Chris Duffy are hoping to awaken the local grain economy by sowing heritage wheats and grains at Langhorne Creek. PHOTO: Ben McMahon.

Emily says historic grains have more flavour than modern grains, which have been bred for disease and drought tolerance.

“We want to take grains back to a time when bread had different flavours, so flavour is a big factor to us,” she says.

“(Heritage grains) have a certain spiciness to them.”

Langhorne Creek’s economy is largely reliant on viticulture as the town is one of the Australia’s top red grape growing regions, but Emily says locals are already interested in building the grain growing industry.

“We have got great community spirit in Langhorne Creek and the local farmers are interested in being a part of this alternative economy,” she says.

“The grains we’ve planted are quite experimental, at least five of them are growing very happily.”

The trial plot flourishing at Langhorne Creek.

The trial plot flourishing at Langhorne Creek.

While waiting for its own fields to prosper, Small World Bakery uses heritage flour from interstate as well as an Australian heritage wheat variety dating back to Federation.

Small World Bakery is expecting to mill its own flour by the end of 2017, when a stone mill arrives from the US, the first of its kind commissioned outside of North America.

Small World Bakery products are baked in Langhorne Creek, but enjoyed throughout South Australia.

Two days per week Chris whizzes down city streets and laneways on a Danish-made bicycle, delivering the bread to businesses and homes in Adelaide.

“We’re bringing something from our community to the city and we’re able to feed people high-quality food from the country,” Emily says.

“As the bread is ordered and paid for online we don’t have to worry about taking payment, so we can have a conversation about bread and what it’s like in the wheat field.”

Breads are delivered to Adelaide CBD homes and businesses on two wheels!

Bread is delivered to Adelaide CBD homes and businesses on a Danish-made bike designed to withstanding undulating conditions such as potholed laneways or bumpy side streets.

All Small World Bakery breads are sourdough, made using naturally occurring yeast and bacteria.

No commerical yeast is used.

“Commercial yeast is perpetuated in a lab and very controlled,” Emily says.

“When you have a sourdough you are working with the bacteria and yeast and you control the different temperatures, water and time.”

Emily was introduced to the world of fermentation – a natural process involved in the making of many foods – after working as a cheesemaker at Woodside Cheese Wrights in the Adelaide Hills.

After six years at the artisan cheese factory, Emily and Chris moved to Langhorne Creek to work in the wine industry.

Carrying on her passion for food and fermentation, Emily took up baking after Chris installed a wood-fired oven under the verandah in the backyard.

Soon enough friends and local cafés started placing orders.

Now Small World Bakery products are available to purchase directly at 112 Coombe Road, Langhorne Creek, or from Argus House, Strathalbyn.

Bread is ordered online via the website and delivered to homes and workplaces in Adelaide’s CBD or North Adelaide.

Header photo by Josie Withers.

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