Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019
It’s shortly before midday on a sizzling hot Friday and the Timbermill Café is buzzing. Some patrons are enjoying an early lunch; others are sharing a coffee with friends, whilst regulars stop by for a take-away.
Café proprietor, Jo Whitney glides from table to table greeting customers, taking orders and clearing tables as if she has been in hospitality her whole life. Actually, Jo is a hairdresser by trade, and her husband Travis Murphy is in the roofing industry, but they took over management of the Timbermill Café on January 9 in their first foray into hospitality.
It has been a hectic few months for the couple who live in Timbertop with their two sons. “It has been a baptism of fire,” says Jo with a laugh, adding, “We’ve had to learn a lot, but the customers have been great and so have our staff.”
Jo’s motivation for taking on the thriving business is simple. “It has been an itch I’ve needed to scratch for a long time. I love being in the kitchen and I’m particularly passionate about food styling, which I guess fits with my creative background,” she explains
The busy couple is supported by a close-knit team including Jo’s Dad’s partner, Jenm who helps manage the café, their Nepalese Chef, Bikas and two baristas, Tylah and Lina, who make sure the coffee is excellent. “When we took over everyone said the coffee needs to be good and everything else will fall into place,” Jo says.
“We have a beautiful collaboration of staff members from all over the world. We have staff from Poland, Nepal, Brazil and England. We have a lot of laughs while we work and I think that’s one of the things I am enjoying most about this new adventure,” she says.
Jo tries to source ingredients for the café’s food locally. Each Friday Jo’s friend, Kylie, accompanies Jo to the Dandenong Market to stock up on fresh produce. Beaconsfield’s Gourmet Butcher Shop and Bellevue Orchard are also suppliers. Their milk comes from a Frankston supplier and Strada Café supplies gluten free products. Timbermill Café is also licensed serving wines from Crittenden Estate on the Mornington Peninsula.
Since taking over, Jo has freshened up the café adding her own decorative touches and gently tweaking the menu. “We didn’t want to make big changes to the menu because clearly the food is working really well for our customers,” she says.
Popular dishes include corn fritters with avocado, bacon, relish and a poached egg and the ancient grain salad with house made humus, haloumi, flat bread and slow cooked lamb. A new addition to the menu, the Cuban Reuben sandwich, is stuffed with corned beef and slow cooked pork, Swiss cheese and pickles. Jo’s favourite type of food is Vietnamese, which is reflected in her Vietnamese chicken salad found on the specials board.
Jo enjoys getting to know her regular customers. She called the her VIPs. Some visit every day treating the café as a home away from home. “Our regulars are here all the time. Everyone knows the café has a beautiful welcoming feel,” she says.