We are back again with another addition to our ‘Cafes That Are Killing It’ series! This week the focus is on the Merri Cafe at CERES.
For some context, CERES is an environmental education centre, community garden, urban farm and social enterprise hub spread across four locations. The Merri Cafe is a social enterprise cafe found on the original Brunswick East CERES location!
The Merri Cafe can be described as a ‘reimaged takeaway organic cafe’ that demonstrates how a local food economy can make an entire community healthier and more resilient. We were lucky enough to speak to head chef Hemi Reidy all about it!
First things first… the Merri Cafe prides themselves on their food being sustainable and organic. They receive a massive amount of veg from the Honey Lane Farm just next door which provides them with amazing zucchinis, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil and Hemi is zeroing in on specific organic suppliers for items like potatoes and fruit. The cafe boasts a seasonally changing menu, which supports local farmers, producers and community food systems. Their website also has a clear list of suppliers with all their relevant information and a comprehensive map!
The cafe is solar powered and does not use gas, with electric stove tops and ovens and a glycol system for refrigeration. It also has an incredible composting and waste system. The cafe is a community hub with the layout set up like a cafeteria. The kitchen is just a foot from the customers meaning they can have open conversations with the chefs and ask exactly where things are coming from.
Hemi has provided some stellar advice to all those aspiring responsible cafes out there. His top tips are:
- Running a cafe is a difficult task and it needs to be a lifestyle, not just a job. You need to love what you are doing and want to engage with and be part of a community.
- Even if you are an ethical person at home and have everything down to a fine art, being at work and running a business is different because a dollar value must be put on your morals and ethics. Small individual choices like ‘do I ride my bike or drive?’ grow exponentially in a cafe with toss-ups like ‘do i get my product organically from a wonderful person 500km away or from a person 10km away that is using a pesticide?’.
- The best way to manage is to do one thing at a time. Every week focus on a small thing you can do better, complete it and add it to the routine. And next week focus on another.
Hemi says the culture of CERES has been inbuilt for so long that people know what is expected without being told. Everybody is seeking to move to a better place, helping spread the word, and this excitement breeds further as everyone is doing as much as they can and CERES is providing the knowledge to do so without people being too stressed out or judgemental towards themselves.
Taken from their website, the central values the Merri Cafe focuses on are:
- Local: Keeping food miles low, we support local farmers and artisans, helping secure our local food systems into the future.
- Australian Made and Grown: Sourcing items that are sustainably grown and produced in Australia.
- Organic and Biodynamic: Using goods that are sown and grown without pesticides and poisons. We only use goods that are certified organic, unless otherwise clearly stated. Organic certification prohibits the use of genetically modified ingredients.
- Ethically Raised Meat and Dairy: Supporting organic or free range farms that adhere to the highest standards of animal welfare and sustainable farming.
- Minimal Packaging: Purchasing stock in bulk to eliminate unnecessary waste and reduces transportation needs.
- Community Social Support: Supporting international Fair Trade enterprises with items such as coffee
- GM Free: Supporting farmers committed to ecological farming that promotes biological diversity and does not and does not contaminate the environment with chemicals and GE-organisms.
- Dietary: Providing alternatives for dietary needs.
So there you go! Not only is The Merri Cafe providing one of the best cuppa’s in the Brunswick area, they are reducing energy use and carbon emissions, packaging, processing and refrigeration, increasing diversity and food security and creating a local food system that supports the community!