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OSTRO ~ Julia Busuttil Nishimura

With the launch of Julia's latest book, OSTRO nearly upon us we thought we'd have a chat about her approach to food, cooking and family life in the age of social media.

 

Alasdair MacKinnon:  Julia you are an incredible and inspiring home cook. As an advocate for organic food principals and eating in sync with the seasons I'm really looking forward to your book. Growing up I was fortunate to spend weekends with my aunt and uncle who lived on a small farm an hour or so from Melbourne.

They grew almost everything that later made it's way to the dinner table (animal and vegetable). 

They were vehemently opposed to pesticides and chemical fertilisers, instead, composting and enriching the soil naturally. This wasn't something they thought of as special, it was partly a thrifty way to provide for their children and a way of living passed down from their forebears. I guess this informed my own eating habits and lifestyle.

Now as a proud home cook with a foundation in organically grown ingredients enriched by my time spent in the kitchens of Stephanie Alexander and Melbourne's longest running vegetarian restaurant, Shakahari

I'd love to know more about your influences and how you developed into such a prolific cook. 

Julia Ostro: I’ve always loved being in the kitchen. To me it’s a familiar and comforting space. So many of my childhood memories are of cooking with my mum, aunties and cousins. Without forgetting that food importantly a meal on the table, it has always also been a link to our culture and family history. In order to continue eating our traditional foods, our family would make a lot of things from scratch or source them from friends as you simply couldn’t buy things like rabbit or Maltese cheeses from the supermarket.

 It wasn’t until I lived in Italy that I felt those values so strongly again and made me reflect on my early years in the kitchen. Making food from scratch and sourcing local and seasonal produce from people you trust was the norm and a celebration. It now defines the way I cook.

 From quite a young age, I also found myself totally engrossed in cookbooks, keeping notes on flavour combinations or interesting pairings that I had never come across. I think the combination of my upbringing and this obsession with reading about food has lead me to become a reactive cook. I rarely head to the market or shops with a list, but rather let the produce or people influence my cooking.

AM: Tell me about your food philosophy and approach to home cooking and what lead you to publish? 

 

JO: In believe in starting with the best possible ingredients and keeping it simple. The best ingredients are, not so surprisingly, what’s in season. The taste and quality, not to mention, price are all reasons enough to eat with the seasons. The thrill when eating that first peach of the Summer, or when fresh broad beans begin to pop up in the markets are true moments of pleasure.

 For me, cooking is as enjoyable as eating – it’s relaxing and rewarding. I make a lot of food – pasta, cheeses, breads etc from scratch because it has some sort of process which allows me to be fully enveloped in the making. Being able to share this love of cooking was the driving force in wanting to write a book. I have always written my recipes down and shared them so having it documented formally is such a nice gift. I didn’t really feel rushed to publish though – I always wanted to write a book but also felt like it would happen when the time was right. I feel really fortunate that someone else saw it was my time and approached me.

 

AM: How important is the intimacy of Social media in developing a dialogue with your audience?

 

JO: It’s a rather strange concept – sharing your life day-to-day with thousands of strangers. Somehow though it is a really intimate community of people that genuinely support what you are doing. I think it’s so important to just do what you love and the rest will follow - being genuine on social media is how I’ve always strived to be. It’s easy to see trends and what other people are doing, but remembering that you have this community of people ‘following’ you, is lovely.

 Of course, there are lots of things that I don’t share too. I think it’s valuable to assess what you feel comfortable sharing and sticking to those gut feelings. You don’t have to be everything to everyone! My social media is made up of mainly food and family and they’re my two of my most fulfilling aspects within my life – I think people appreciate that authenticity.

 

AM: I can see from your social media that you travel extensively. My cooking is always expanded and developed through first-hand experiences gained travelling.

 

JO: I absolutely love to travel and feel like these experiences have completely shaped and inspired my cooking. It’s not even about mirroring exact dishes when I arrive home, but more about trying to capture some sort of feeling that was associated with a dish I might have eaten, or seeing a technique and being able to use it in my own cooking. Even the supermarkets in other countries can be a great source of inspiration.

 

AM: The Boroughs has some wonderful Japanese connections, can you share with us some of your favourite Japanese places to eat ? - did you know we were actually in Japan at the same time in May this year ?! 

 

JO: Recently in Kyoto, we had the most amazing meal at a small restaurant called Monk. The loveliest man, Yoshihiro, cooks a seriously incredible five or seven-course dinner, centered around the very large wood-fired oven in his rather tiny kitchen. Most things are sourced from his friend’s farm, just one hour away, and everything else has some kind of story. Set along the Philosopher’s Path – it’s calm, serene and really special.

Nori is such a wonderful cook so we don’t tend to eat Japanese food out here in Melbourne that often. I’m rather fond of Aka Siro in Collingwood though.

 

AM: Living busy Urban lives means many of us don't all have the option to grow food. In this neighbourhood of a East Brunswick we're fortunate to have CERES, they provide mostly locally grown organic veg, delivered to boot! We can shop locally and have access to food that matches our ethics. Tell me about your favourite local places to pick up ingredients, what's your kitchen staple ?! 

 

JO: I love shopping at the weekend farmer’s market – there are always interesting vegetable varieties, kinds that just aren’t available in regular supermarkets. These small growers are so important to our biodiversity so I really try and support them when I can. For us though, we find buying everything organic isn’t financially feasible so I like to emphasise the local and seasonal when discussing ingredients for recipes. I think that’s when growing our own veggies has become a really important aspect of our lives. As I am writing for a large range of people, it’s important to be aware that not everyone will have access to farmer’s markets or the means to purchase organic vegetables, for example, and is why I usually emphasise the benefits in choosing local and seasonal first.

 

AM: Urban living has also meant that our kitchens have become smaller, it's inspiring that all your cooking comes out of your little kitchen .. We talk a lot over the counter about apartment living here at The Boroughs. What kitchen essentials would you recommend for someone cooking from a small kitchen? Space saving tips are always welcome !! 

 

JO: I think people are always really shocked to see what my kitchen is like. For someone that cooks everyday, it’s very basic. The only electrical equipment I have is my stand mixer and an ice-cream machine, which doesn’t get used all that often. When you have the knowledge and skills to make things for yourself, with the least possible amount of equipment, you can make amazing food in tiny, based kitchens. A large mortar and pestle, some sturdy pots and a good quality kitchen knife are just a few of my essentials. We don’t have a toaster, or a microwave or an electrical kettle, which might seem absurd, but we grill our bread under the grill, reheat our food and boil our water on the stove. Our small space means maximising the already existing appliances and choosing equipment that has multiple-uses.

 

AM: Julia your beautiful family often features in your Instagram feed. It's lovely to see how good food and love go hand in hand. This I know to be true too as I met my love while shopping in an organic store, evidence that eating well leads to a good life. You share your love and goodness so beautifully and we really look forward to launching your recipes in the store, to sharing your love of food and welcome you and your family wholeheartedly. Thank you. 

 

JO: Thank you very much! I’m so looking forward to launching Ostro at the Boroughs.

Kester Black

Kester Black is exactly what we like to see when searching for a product to sell in our store; local, ethical and sustainable.

They provide their staff with a paid day off on their birthdays, offer ten additional paid days per year to staff wishing to volunteer, and match any registered charity donation made by their employees. Kester Black is currently on track to donate 15% of revenue to charity in 2017.

Kester Black manufactures all of their products in Australia, run their office completely on renewable energy, and are working towards becoming paper free.

The entire product including packaging is locally sourced, in order to reduce environmental impact, and all Kester Black nail polishes are 10-free, cruelty free, vegan and water-permeable.

Kester Black’s vision also aligns perfectly with our commitment to the Lygon Street Green Mile (http://morelandzerocarbon.org.au/lygon-st-green-mile/the-boroughs/).

So we're happy to support the brand and offer a wide range of their nail polishes, and soaps .

We also happen to think Kester Black make the nicest nail polish we’ve seen! 

We were keen to learn more about the inner workings of Kester Black, so we interviewed founder, Anna Ross.

The Boroughs: Did Kester Black spring from a love of nail polish or were there other influences?

Anna Ross: I actually began Kester Black as a jewellery label and a point came where I started researching enamel paint to use on the pieces I was making. This led me to nail polish, and what I saw was a significant gap in the market!

I had so many ideas and just went for it; everything seemed to grow naturally from that point. I decided to manufacture and sell my own nail polish line to complement my jewellery. It was a major turning point in my career when, as the jewellery market had become really saturated and my nail polish sales were going through the roof, I decided to focus solely on the nail polish side of things and lay the jewellery to rest.  

I decided to create an all-Australian brand that provided professional quality beauty products that did not compromise my social and environmental principles.

TB: Where does the name Kester Black come from?

AR: It was inspired by an idyllic faraway bay in New Zealand. I was out boating with friends and family one day in the Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand’s South Island, when I discovered beautiful St Kester Bay.

Across the bay was a solitary house, inaccessible by road and completely off the grid, which I later realised was owned by a priest, hence the choice of the colour black. That place was the pinnacle of New Zealand beauty to me and I wanted my business name to have a tie with where I came from.

TB: You refer to Kester Black as ‘inclusive.’ What makes Kester Black an inclusive brand?

AR: We focus on making our brand accessible to all individuals and avoid marketing our products to distinguished roles based on gender, race or religion. That’s why with all of our campaign imagery we exclude our model’s face from being able to identify with a wider audience.

Not many people know this but our nail polishes are made from a breathable base so that our Muslim community are able to use our products.

Our endeavours seem to be paying off, too. Our best (but really, our favourite) customer is a nine-year-old boy who visits us each year at The Big Design Market hosted in Melbourne just to come say hi!

TB: We love ethical business and it sounds like you take extremely good care of your employees. They must love you! Do you believe your employee friendly policies are good for business?

AR: Yes absolutely. I always wanted to build a company that people wanted to work for. Staff turnover is one of the biggest costs to small business so I have worked hard to create a positive workplace for my staff. I'm working hard to build a team that will hopefully stay with me for more than a year which seems rare these days!

TB: You made a political statement with the release of one of your new tones earlier this year, Impeachment, which included commissioning Ellen Porteous to make Trump-themed posters (https://www.ellenporteus.com/#/kester-black-impeachment/). At the Boroughs, we thoroughly enjoyed this statement and the beautiful soft peach nail polish that came with it. What was the reaction like elsewhere? Did you face any backlash?

AR: This was one of our favourite projects this year. We had so much fun working with Ellen and pasting up our posters around Melbourne. The reception was something else. We took our brand to another area where we haven’t normally and it’s paid off as the response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. There wasn't even one word of backlash!

It’s always been crucial to us to allow our customers to feel a strong connection to our brand and we wanted to bring light to an issue which meant a lot to our community.

TB: What local, ethical and sustainable brands do you like to support personally?

AR: I am really passionate about sustainability so one of my favourite local brands is Keep Cup. Everyone in the office has one and I often buy them for family and friends around Christmas. I think single use coffee cups are the worst! We also have Swell bottles so we don't have to buy any single use water bottles. My other favourite brand is Who Gives A Crap!. I buy all of my toilet paper from these guys. I always look for other ‘B Corps’ when I am buying any consumer goods, as I know they are all doing amazing things (Like us!).

Hester MacKinnon

Interview with artist - Ruby MacKinnon

Artist Profile – Ruby MacKinnon – ‘Thinking of Home’

 

Artist and graphic designer Ruby MacKinnon has a strong connection to the Boroughs. She is a past manager of the store, was responsible for the graphics of our rebrand in 2015 and her watercolour greeting cards are some of the store’s constant best sellers. It seems only right that she opens her first solo show with us this Friday Night.

 

Ruby’s debut solo show ‘Thinking of Home’ shares a series of watercolour artworks responding to the concept and experience of ‘home’. Ruby’s pieces contemplate the definition of ‘home’ in a time when the dream of owning one’s own home is becoming increasingly foreign to the younger generations of Australia. Ruby’s works draw on her own experience of moving from place to place but maintaining a sense of homeliness as well as gaining inspiration from the stories of others.

 

We spoke to Ruby ahead of her exciting debut show.

 

 

The Boroughs: What does ‘home’ mean to you? How did the concept become the inspiration for your show?

 

Ruby MacKinnon: One definition of the word 'home' is a place where something flourishes which really struck a chord with me when I was beginning to research this show. To me a 'house' is just a residential space, like an apartment or unit, but a ‘home' focuses on the people that inhabit the space and their distinct way of living within it. It’s how people create a feeling of home that fascinates me. A person’s home often tells you a lot about them – you can get a quick sense of the house holder just by seeing how they arrange their furniture or the art they display on their walls. 

 

I have always lived in rented dwellings so I am very accustomed to moving and have never associated my home with any particular building. As a kid I reveled in each new house, enjoying looking for its quirks and, hopefully, secret hiding places! But that has also meant that we never measured ourselves against any one door frame, and were never able to customise the house in any way besides the arrangement of our belongings inside or the plants in the garden. I look back fondly on all of my homes, however. All individual, all lived in for varying periods of time but all ‘home’.

 

TB: For one of the exhibition pieces, you’ve asked your friends and family to describe what ‘home’ means to them and created watercolour sketches of their responses. Did the responses you received surprise you?

 

RM: The responses to my questions 'What makes you think of home?' have been really interesting. Cats came up a lot! I love cats, so I get that, but I think it's also because, unlike dogs, cats live solely in and around one's home. A dog comes with you to the shops; a cat waits for you at your front door. 

 

The most interesting variation in response has been between those who determine home by how the space makes them feel versus those who recognise it for what it contains and what that signifies to them. 

For example some people imagine specific belongings when they think of home, others think of the feeling of safety and the opportunity to truly be themselves.

 

TB: How much do you find your work is naturally influenced by your ‘home’?

 

RM: A lot of the work in this show is very personal. It expresses my personal thoughts about home.

 

For one piece I painted the glassware (two vases and one small, coloured Saki bottle) that sits in my current apartment window. The vases have been in the window almost since we moved in and are very much linked in my mind to that space even though they came from my family's collection. I added the bottle to the display after a dinner out with some of my best friends. I associate the small collection with both my current home and situation, and homes of my childhood.

 

The card I am launching at the exhibition which features the message 'Home is where my mum is' includes a painting of a ceramic cup that is based off a cup I brought from my family home that was my own special chai cup when we were all together and has come with me to all my adult homes. 

 

TB: Is there a standout piece on display? Something you are most proud of?

 

RM: Of the large-scale pieces my favourite works are the vase of protea and the leaf.

 

The protea I painted as a gift for myself - the nice paper was gifted to me by my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed selecting the flowers and painting them at leisure. I'm particularly pleased with the reflections in the vase itself.

 

The leaf is painted from a real leaf I regularly walk past on the way to work. As I live in an apartment and can't have my own garden beyond pot plants in the window, I enjoy observing the sights, scents and seasons of my neighbours’ gardens. I have watched that particular leaf keenly as it ages and enjoyed all of its stages. The leaf is fully brown and crinkled now but still beautiful. I had admired it for some time when I saw it beginning to wither and discolour. I loved the soft fade from green at the top to the rusty orange at the bottom of the leaf and the graceful curl of the shrivelling end.

 

I'm also really looking forward to seeing all of the response pieces displayed together. I am hoping it will be a very positive and affirming collection. Everyone who responded associates home with warmth and positivity and we are all very lucky to do so.

 

 

TB: You use a lot of watercolour in your pieces. What do you love about the medium?

 

RM: I started to independently experiment with watercolour just after high school. I was given a little set and found it to be a very approachable and enjoyable medium. Like everyone who discovers watercolour I became very interested in the way the colour can bleed with different papers and techniques.

 

I love the softness of watercolour on paper and the unavoidable (at least in my case) touch of hand - the looseness of edges and the opportunity to playfully layer to give form and effect.

 

TB: What does it mean to you to have your debut show on display at The Boroughs?

 

RM: Having my debut show at The Boroughs is something unusual and special. The theme felt like the right fit for the location. There's a nice connection between a store where people buy goods to become part of their home, or the home of others, and artworks about the wares that I, myself, and my friends and family have collected to form our impressions of home.

 

There is also the family link - The Boroughs is my father's store and my sister and I have worked on and off there since he bought it several years ago. 

 

 

‘Thinking of Home’ opens Friday May 5, 6:30-8:00pm at The Boroughs Store with drinks and nibbles provided.

 

Hester MacKinnon

The Legend of Monga Khan, an Aussie folk hero

Monga Khan, although born in India, lived, worked and died in Australia. Monga was a hawker who sold goods in Victoria, helping the young Australian economy to grow.

Monga Khan’s photo has been kept for a hundred years in the Australian National Archive, along with his application for exemption to the White Australia Policy. It is only now, however, that he has been given a voice.

 

Enter Adelaide-born artist Peter Drew. His quest – to make Monga Khan famous, in order to re-write Australian folklore and redefine what ‘Aussie’ really means.

Peter began a crowd-funded campaign in an attempt to cover Australia with 1000 posters of Monga.

Peter Drew

The campaign received such strong support that Peter’s fundraising goal was exceeded and, as a result, he decided to use the additional funds to commission artists and writers to pitch in and create for Monga the historical fiction he deserved. These stories, poems, and artworks combine to form Peter’s book, ‘The Legend of Monga Khan, an Aussie Folk Hero’.

 

It is an honour to be launching this book at The Boroughs Store.

 

I remember when I first began to see Peter’s posters appearing around Australia. His ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ campaign seemed to inspire the best in people and caught the eye of many other artists and creatives. Peter’s artwork is an inclusive breath of fresh air in a hostile political landscape of fear mongering and growing disdain for multiculturalism.

 

Peter’s message resonates with our community and customers and his posters on our walls never fail to start conversations.

 

It seems only appropriate to involve Peter himself in that conversation. I spoke to him ahead of the launch.

 

The Boroughs: Where did you find Monga Khan, and what drew you to him?

 

Peter Drew: I found Monga Khan's records in the Australian National Archive in Victoria. In 1916, he applied for an exemption to the White Australia Policy so he could travel back to India without fear of being kept out of Australia upon his return.

 

There are thousands of records like Monga Khan's in the Archive. I chose his simply because he looks heroic. It's the kind of image that makes you wonder 'who was that man? What was it like to be him?'

 

TB: What does it mean to you to be ‘Aussie’?

 

PD: The strength of openness.

 

TB: What do you believe is the benefit of Monga becoming a folk hero?

 

PD: Australia needs new myths – ones that reflect our multi-ethnic past and future – because without shared narratives we can’t form shared identities. It's important that some of those narratives are myths because only myths grant the reader tacit permission to make the imaginative leap necessary to really identify with the hero.

That's what myths are for! Constructing myths of this kind is fundamentally the job of artists.

 

TB: Who has collaborated with you on this project and how and why did you approach them?

 

PD: I approached Royce Kurmelovs to edit the book because I had a hunch he could pull it off in terms of skill, temperament, and sensitivity to the subject matter. Luckily I was right! In the beginning, I simply asked Royce to commission writers with knowledge of the migrant experience, so we naturally attracted a diverse group.

 

Nici Cumpston from the Art Gallery of South Australia wrote the foreword about her own family story, which spans the history of the cameleers and the Barkindji people of remote NSW. I thought it was the perfect way to ground the book in reality before embarking on our journey of myth-making.

 

The illustrations are by artists I admire, many of whom I've wanted to work with for a long time. That aspect of the project has been a real treat for me.

 

TB: Why did you decide to launch Monga’s story at the Boroughs?

 

PD: Because this project is all about community, and so is the Boroughs... Ever since you asked to display my posters I knew we had plenty in common.

 

 

Peter’s book of fictional short stories, poems and illustrations will launch in Victoria at The Boroughs on Wednesday, March 15, from 6:30 – 8:30.

 

 

‘ The Legend of Monga Khan, an Aussie Folk Hero’ features contributions from:

Royce Kurmelovs, Anne Waters, Nici Cumpston, Manal Younus, Kavi Guppta, Elizabeth Flux, Lindsay Nightingale, James Roy, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, Ena Grozdanic, Laurie May, Hop Dac, Kerri Ann Wright, Andrea Smith, Julian May, Dave Court, Tom Gerrard, Alasdair Mackinnon, Gabriel Cunnett, Freda Chiu, Kyoko Imazu, Rosie Turner, Joel Matheson, Gabriel Cole, Owen Foley, Paul Kisselev, Penny Ferguson, Yan Yan Candy Ng, Jake Holmes, Alice Lindstrom, Alexis Winter, Jake Bresanello, Minna Leunig, Amanda Ng, Emily Nelson and Lucas Grogan.

 

 

 

Hester MacKinnon

Tokyo Springtime at the The Boroughs

July brings real winter weather to East Brunswick, rainy days with grey skies and cold winds. It's that time of year when woollen gloves stay close at hand and a beanie is never far from my head.

Like an act of defiance to the season a delightful little piece of Tokyo springtime is drifting toward The Boroughs like a Sakura blossom caught on the breeze. 

UGUiSU is a Tokyo-based stationery, homewares, crafts and gift store founded in 2009 by Hikaru Komura. 

Hikaru, known to her friends as Hiki, will be transporting the best of her little store into our little store from Sunday July 17th to Sunday July 24th.

UGUiSU is similar to The Boroughs in that it was created to highlight the work of local artists, designers and craftspeople.  Hiki has successfully introduced the work of many Japanese artisans to her fans around the world, and now she is bringing a carefully hand-picked selection that includes items hard to find or obtain even in Tokyo to East Brunswick.

UGUiSU will present stationery, textiles, ceramic wares, jewellery, and traditional vegan candles all handcrafted or manufactured in Japan. Each piece has been chosen for its great design and high-quality manufacture. Also included beautiful riso printed wrapping paper made in collaboration with Melbourne artists Beci Orpin and Michelle Mackintosh.

The Boroughs is celebrating the event with a Japanese inspired collection of chocolate mini bars created by chocolatier Samanta Bakker from Monsieur Truffe and an Alice Oehr designed commemorative, limited edition tea towel, printed by Super Special Printing .

Out there in the world

May was a big month for us.

We launched Michelle Mackintosh's latest book Care Packages and  found ourselves in the media.

Being a part of Care Packages was a heartwarming and rewarding experience, Michelle is one of the most beautiful people you could hope to work with. Our whole team got involved, Ruby hand-painted signs for the window, Grace and me worked on constructing an installation of Michelle's projects, all drawn from the pages of the book.

Her community spirit and generosity permeate everything she does. The opening night was a hoot we had a store filled friends, family, and other MM well-wishers. 

To top it all off, renowned Melbourne blogger, Pip from Meet Me at Mikes wrote a fun piece about her friends who have their own chocolate bars in our store.

Outside these walls, on T.V. and in print we were fortunate to be included in two pieces describing the goodness of our neighbourhood. Jess and Ella both love Brunswick East as much as we do, and we're flattered to be included in their 'best ofs' . It's affirming to see that they both appreciate our store and recognise its contribution to the culture of the neighbourhood.

Postcards Channel 9 - Jessica Tovey's favourite places in Brunswick 

 

The Weekly Review - Ella Hooper's favourite places in East Brunswick

 

Pop in and say hi soon....

MacK

 

The Herbert Cafe

For those of you that follow us on Instagram you would have noticed that back in July we installed (what we like to call) an outpost at The Herbert. We originally found the cafe after stumbling off the train one morning at the Northcote station.

Nestled on the far side of a large block that straddles the corner of Herbert Street and Arthurton Road one of The Herbert's distinctive characteristics is immediately obvious; a huge carpark. I can't think of many other cafes with a dedicated carpark. Given that Arthurton Road is a very busy thoroughfare this feature makes the cafe easily accessible.

The Herbert

Outside, the block is partitioned from the neighbours yard by a fence built from recycled wood shaped like the silhouette of factory roofs. Bordering the fence line and the entry to the cafe is a range of raised garden beds and seating areas. The garden beds hold both decorative and productive plants, forming a green buffer around the cafe perimeter also supplying the cafe with herbs and other fresh edible plants.

Inside (what was once a cabinet makers workshop) the building now houses the cafe, architects office and carpenters workshop, forming a micro community on-site. Like the outside, the interior of The Herbert cafe features the use of recycled timber, combined with repurposed industrial materials and new bespoke furniture, creating an informal, relaxed hangout.

 Interior

The Cafe serves a considered menu of dishes backed up with coffee from Brunswick's finest roasters, Padre Coffee .

Behind superior projects like The Herbert Partnership there are special people, this story is an excuse for us to talk to Sophie Gandar, the brains and the brawn behind the cafe.

The Boroughs - We understand, that you have a background in writing, could you give us some insight into your work in that area?

Sophie - I was rotund and nerdy in primary school. I loved writing, and excelled in creative writing until going wayward as a teenager. My mum encouraged me by fabricating a ‘writing fairy’, who I’d submit stories to, and in the dead of night the fairy would come and appraise my work in infinitesimal handwriting, and leave small ceramics as recompense. I should thank her for this – it is truly amazing.

When I left New Zealand to live abroad, I found freelance work including creating copy for an artisan food directory. I helped friends with submissions, press releases and music biographies, and wrote for a few digital publications that shall remain secret.

 

B - How, if at all, does your previous professional experience influence what you are doing at The Herbert?

S - I don’t know if it does. I’ve always preferred ghost-writing or aliases, and I struggle to promote my own work. Some people are really good at selling themselves; I find it difficult to write earnestly, and a warped sense of humour and self-deprecating cynicism overshadow what would be a nice social media post. I prefer to have someone else handle Instagram – it’s more light-hearted.

I know how to get things done, and I think my previous work means I’m just as capable front of house as I am in administration and accounting. I’m extremely impatient, and want everything done immediately. I’m known to respond to emails instantly, as though it were a verbal conversation. I’m learning not to check work email after hours.

 

B - What inspired the move into food and hospitality?

I’d been working in documentation and infrastructural software until 2011, and in my second year living in London, I picked up some work at my housemates café on Portobello Road. I then took a full-time job at a small café in Hackney – both roles comprised front of house cooking and I realised I was okay at it? I’ve always enjoyed making food for people, and it was a lightbulb moment that that’s what I should do for a living.

My first year in London I worked on the Olympic 2012 build – I may have overstimulated myself and suffered a couple of seizure-type episodes. Working under fluorescent lights and staring at monitors all day wasn’t feasible anymore and while running a café can be extreme pressurised, it is the best most rewarding thing.

B -The Herbert is curious little enclave, there are architects, a cabinet maker and cafe on site, this is hardly the typical high street cafe. Were you attracted to this community set up?

 

S - My business partners are an architect and builder. They’d been working together on myriad projects and three years ago really needed a space to make frequent meetings easier. The building was a cabinetmaker’s commercial residence in a past life, but it’s been sectioned off to house the café, an architectural studio, and a workshop – where the café furniture is built/repaired and all manner of bespoke things are built. There’s a gentle air of self-sustainability on site, but we don’t run around nude after hours.

I was definitely attracted to the workshop – I stripped and rebuilt a vintage Apollo II road bike (okay, with a little help) – and I’m nuts for sanding. I’ll sand anything. Most of the furniture in my house is sanded and oiled. I dunno. Sanding steel is cool too. Oh, sanding.

 

B - How did you get involved?

S - I used to cycle past at dawn and wonder what the hell it was. There was no signage back then – just a graffiti slathered building and a giant carpark. I’d been looking for a management opportunity after landing in Melbourne and wandered in one day. James (the builder) was cashing up indignantly and gave me the third degree about whether I’d be able to cash up. I thought he was a jerk, but I assured him I was capable, started the next week and set about turning it into a well-functioning but relaxing space to eat and drink. The coffee was always wonderful – Padre are killer roasters, and St David’s in Fitzroy bottle the best boutique milk in all the land.

I bought out a third original partner at the end of 2014 and have cried myself to sleep every night since.

Just kidding. Not every night. And I’m very proud of the café.

 

B - Describe the interior aesthetic for us?

S - I guess it’s industrial? But warm. It’s literally a bang-up job – most of the materials were sourced through inorganic scouring, and all the timber on the walls and tables are leftovers from building sites. I concede this makes my partners very clever – people always comment on the aesthetic, the light fittings and features. James and Tobias have done a superb job with space-management and acoustics.

The concrete bench was set in the workshop, and Tobias is a raving lunatic for building steel-framed furniture.

We take great care to provide a visually appealing environment and I’d hope people considered the space inviting, a bit design-y, but uncontrived.

Main table

 

B -Your menu at The Herbert is concise, tell us about your approach/direction to food in the cafe context?

S - The approach is very much dictated by the space. Our wee tiny long-suffering grill cooks every single meal and has only been ill once. We can’t do poached eggs in the 1 square metre bench space, so instead we focus on using seasonal produce, high-end gluten free breads, and free-range meats and dairy, to make meals that are fresh and simple and not-overworked. We season well. The menu is short but with specials, I think it caters for the varying degrees of hunger and preference and weather.

I can’t even remember designing the menu – there was so much to do at the time. Some people eat our roast vegetable sandwich or avocado chickpea smash every day. Changing the menu gives me intense extra-workload fear, but I also couldn’t rob those people of their daily rituals.

Salads are cool – they’re probably where I get to be most inventive.

I think spending a little more on organic, artisan products pays dividends down the line – they’re nicer to work with and it’s really evident on the plate.

 

BAre you trying to cater to a specific dietary requirement or philosophy?

If your kitchen was larger, would this influence your menu?

S - Everything we serve is easily adapted to the dietary nuances of 21st century man.

If the kitchen were larger it would totally influence my menu! I’d experiment much more and maybe one day create The Perfect Meal as voted by readers of The Guinness Book of World Records.

 

B - We love your garden - tell us about what the garden means to you. It looks like a mixture of productive and decorative plantings, did you set out to supply the cafe with a kitchen garden? Do have plans for how the garden might evolve?

S - I love it too. Watering a garden is a great stress relief. It should in theory grow things we can use in the kitchen – but it is also a giant basket of toys for small hands. As such, it’s best not to rely on anything growing long enough to be more than decorative. I propagate a lot, and love growing culinary plants, but the aesthetic is more important to me at the end of the day, and I don’t like harvesting to a bare patch.

We do use the herbs, and the lavender makes a beautiful tea. I eat all the strawberries before anyone gets a look in.

A couple of times I’ve arrived at work to find the garden’s been vandalised – so I’m not making any grand plans except to establish the new natives, and find something that will grow up our steel lattice to hide the water tank. Passionfruit?

 

B - Community is important to the Boroughs, sharing, working together with the people and businesses around us, is this a philosophy that you also embrace?

 

S - Of course. I think boosting your professional cohorts and listening to people and building relationships with other companies that care less about the dollar and more about the moment makes a very smart businessperson in 2015. Is that idiosyncratic?

I don’t know. I’m proud of all the people I know in small business and like friends, I’d want the best for them. If you can help a brother out, why wouldn’t you?

Don't take our word for it folks;  pop along to The Herbert, you'll eat and drink well and have the opportunity to pick up a selection of Boroughs products too.

 

 

Meet the Maker - Henty

Hello again from The Boroughs! This week we chatted with one of our most popular makers: Jeremy Grey of Henty! Since introducing us to their incredible WINGMAN utility bag a couple of years ago we've been hooked on Henty's functional yet stylish design. We decided to catch up with Jeremy from his home across the Bass Strait to find out about all things Wingman, Tassie and what's next for Henty...

T.B.S: Can you tell us about the place that inspired the name Henty?

J: Henty is a region on the west coast of Tasmania. It's rugged and remote. The region is named after early settlers who came to Tasmania when it was called Van Diemens Land. Interestingly, they left Tasmania and were some of the first settlers in Port Phillip Bay.

Your wingman bag is incredibly popular! What was the 2 year long design process like?

The design process was an interesting period. The idea came about because I needed the solution for myself. The product design was only one part in a much larger process which allow us to launch Henty. Other areas we needed to focus on were branding, production, marketing and logistics. The two year period also included a period where our interest waxed and waned before we decided to commit and go flat out to make it happen.

The Wingman is now used by cyclists around the world, are you a keen cyclist and traveller yourself?

I get out on the bike as often as I can, but it's more mountain biking now than commuting. My business partner Jon Gourlay circumnavigated the Mediterranean on his bicycle. Working on Henty full-time means I get to travel (with my wingman) for work, and I also try and bring the family along when I can.

You're based in Tasmania, what spots would Henty recommend to anyone visiting from the Boroughs side of the Bass Strait?

Tasmania is a fantastic place to visit. My top picks would be: 1) climb Mount Amos (Coles Bay), 2) Bruny Island for a day trip, 3) Walk the zig-zag track to the summit of Mount Wellington, 4) Take the ferry to MONA, 5) Visit us at Salamanca Markets!

What's next for Henty?

We've got several new designs we've been working on and we hope to release them soon. Our story has started with the Wingman, but we've identified some other exciting opportunities in the luggage space which we hope our customers will appreciate.

Come and visit us at the shop and see the amazing features the Henty Wingman offers!

Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Images courtesy Henty

Winter is here

 

It's official: Winter is here. Luckily we only mean the passing of the 1st of June not a Game of Thrones level freeze but you could easily be mistaken seeing as we've had some of the coldest days in years! Seriously, just ask the Bureau of Meteorology. But despite the grey skies, rain and winds to rival an overzealous fan on a fashion shoot, Melbourne in winter is still rather lovely. The Winter Masterpieces exhibition series will be returning featuring the not-at-all dull David Bowie Is exhibition, mulled wine is on virtually every menu and we're well and truly in the swing of the footy season (carn' North!). The fantastic Light in Winter Festival will be making it's return in Federation Square from the 1st to the 30th of June featuring it's renowned light sculptures and we at the Boroughs are rather keen to head along! Although with the temperature continuing to drop outside you may want to rug up a bit before going to Fed Square or even just stay in with some of our favourite winter picks:

Otto and Spike Scarves:

We're not kidding when we say that the best scarves in town come from Otto and Spike, they're literally designed and produced right here in the 3057! Made with premium surplus lambswool Otto and Spike's scarves will not only keep you toasty on the go (or inside if you so choose) but stylish too. Informed by a distinctively retro aesthetic, just take your pick of of something more Mondrian or perhaps checkered to match the McFayden picnic rug.

Happy Socks:

The skies may be dull but the same doesn't have to be said for your feet! Swedish sock and tight makers Happy Socks have something to warm the feet of both the big and little people in your life in every patten from paisley to polka dot. You'll struggle to find a boring pair of Happy Socks but you'll definitely be the envy of onlookers as you show them off on the ride to work!

Penelope Durston Gloves:

It would be remiss of us to leave gloves out of this list after the attention paid to socks and scarves! Do your mitts a favour this winter and pick up a pair of Penelope Durston fingerless gloves from The Boroughs. Made from NZ possum fur, where the animal is a pest, and produced just down the road in Fitzroy by local maker Penelope Durston these guys will keep your digits warm without the bother of being unable to use your phone or do anything requiring dexterity.

The Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe:

Winter isn't just about warming yourself, sometimes you need a little something to warm the soul too. The Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe chocolate is just the ticket! Made in collaboration with our next door neighbours and wrapped in with the artwork of some of our favourite designers, Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe chocolate will definitely bring a bit of a spark to your day (if you choose the popping candy that is)! You can shop them online here.

If you'd like information of the designers, people and events mentioned, follow the links below.

Otto & Spike, Happy Socks, Penelope Durston, Monsieur Truffe

Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Images courtesy Otto & Spike, The Boroughs

Embracing 3057



Hello again! A lot has happened since our last update and as you may have noticed our look has changed a little. The 3057 community is central to everything we do at the shop and now it's part of our new name and new look. Boroughs owner Alasdair MacKinnon approached local graphic designers 'The Contenders’ and the process of developing our new Boroughs identity begun! Among the team was Ruby MacKinnon: Designer, former Boroughs assistant manager and, as you may have guessed, Alasdair's daughter. Who better to help develop our new style! But why the change? Well, let's go straight to the source to find out...

ALASDAIR MACKINNON, OWNER OF THE BOROUGHS

You've recently changed the name of the shop, how come?
The name was changed for a number of reasons, most importantly our old name Five Boroughs refers to the 5 areas of the state of New York, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Today The Boroughs is a reflection of the community that surrounds it, (a borough being a term for a town or district area) the designers, artists, makers, writers, photographers, and manufacturers. Over the last 30 years, Brunswick East has been transformed from a humble working class suburb where people lived close to the factories they worked in, to an area characterised by a mixture of creativity and sustainability. It's such an exciting place, where there are wonderful cafes, bars, restaurants, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, bakers, brewers, provenders, bike builders and venues all bearing the idiosyncratic imprint of their owners. Our new name is a reflection of our sense of place.

There is a snazzy new logo to match! How did you decide on the new Boroughs look?
Originally we approached The Contenders with the idea of incorporating The Boroughs store name into the existing logo. Once we had briefed them and they understood our connection to 3057, they built this sense of place into the final result. Initially Ruby showed us three directions, one was the new name in the old logo, the second took elements from the old logo to make a new one, and the third, is the one we chose which was a totally new direction. We're really excited about how it looks, what it means, and how the logo functions.

The shop is very much linked to the goings on of the 3057, did this inspire the new branding?
We're very connected to what's going on, from the stock we sell to the events we hold and our engagement with the larger community. Community was a huge influence on our branding. The inclusion of the postcode is the clearest indication of this connection.


RUBY MACKINNON, DESIGNER AND FRIEND OF THE BOROUGHS

Tell us a little bit about your work with The Contenders!
The Contenders is a Melbourne based creative agency. We help build new brands by creating the brand identity and story, strengthen existing brands with new visual or marketing strategies, and all the in between bits and pieces to make our clients' brands the strongest contenders in their respective markets. I got the opportunity to be lead designer on the rebrand of The Boroughs but actually I'm the littlest fish in this team, lucky enough to be working with some really accomplished and experienced designers and brand strategists. 

What inspired your choice of colours for the new logo?
Previously, Five Boroughs had been designed with the primary colours of vintage blue/green and charcoal. We loved the old brand and wanted to carry some of it's features over to the new brand and colour seemed like a great way to do that.

We kept those colours as the primary colours for the logo but added in some new colours to the brand palette to give it a bit of playfulness and something new and fresh.

How did you decide on the new look for The Boroughs? What was it about the 3057 you wanted to capture?
When Alasdair came to The Contenders wanting a new logo to go with the new brand name 'The Boroughs' we felt like we could add something to really tell the story of the shop at 345 Lygon St. A sense of place.

A passionate love for the area of East Brunswick and it's people and produce is shared by the store and its customers and we wanted to make that the focus of the brand, showing The Boroughs within the community of '3057' in the brand mark.

Another really important and developing aspect of the Boroughs brand is its involvement with local makers in collaborative events and products. An important factor in designing this brand was working out how to incorporate collaborators in the brand's communications and product packaging.

We developed a visual system that highlights collaborators, front and centre to show how proud The Boroughs is to work with great local and international talent. 

So there you have it, we're pretty excited about the new name and look for the shop so do pop in to check it out! And be sure to stay tuned to this blog for upcoming interviews and posts about the latest Boroughs news.

If you'd like information of the designers, people and events mentioned, follow the links below.

Ruby MacKinnon, The Contenders

 Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Video courtesy of Andrew McDowell