If passion, good humour and experience count for anything , then they should guarantee success for Adam Johnson who has just taken over the Old Bank Cafe in Maleny.
Adam with Old Bank Cafe floor staff, Kelly, manager Berit, and Sophie.
ADAM’S ENTHUSIASM is already infectious with locals and visitors sampling his breakfast and lunch menus. Very soon a liquor licence will see Adam set up a wine bar, an aspect of hinterland gastronomy that is long overdue.
Growing up in Mudgee, Adam was very lucky as a young teenager to be offered casual work at Craigmour Restaurant and the attached Montrose Winery. He very quickly decided where he wanted to be.
“They asked if I wanted to do some pruning of the vines, and I did probably up to 20 minutes and I said this isn’t for me. So I went inside the cellar door and it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Here I was at 15 behind the counter and being shown the basics of all the different wine styles.”
In the Craigmoor Restaurant Adam went through a similar learning curve. Everything from setting tables to pleasing customers and later preparing flambés at the table. It was this invaluable experience in the early 80s as a youngster that has kept Adam in the hospitality industry.
“I haven’t trained as a chef,” says Adam, “ but it’s still part of my passion for hospitality. I want to sit you down, give you the menu, and tell you something about it. Then I want to go out there and cook something for you and bring it back and match your meal with a glass of wine. I want to give you the ultimate experience from the start to the finish. That’s where I get the enjoyment.”
Apart from being a bon vivant amongst the cafe tables, Adam is also a good listener. He has a sixth sense about his customers’ comfort and level of satisfaction. When he finally settled on the Maleny main street business many customers told him they hoped he would set up a wine bar. Adam was surprised but quick to adapt.
“I want it to be a relaxed, informal, comfortable, homely place for you to hang out and have nice home cooked meals with passion, and enjoy some wine with friends. And if your perception of doing that is in a cafe, a restaurant or a wine bar, well let it be.
“My focus is on keeping the clientele happy and keeping the staff happy. I am not a specialist in anything but warm hospitality.”
Adam describes his menu as basic wholesome tucker and says the Cafe will respond to seasonal changes .
“We’re designing a spring menu now for example. I love robust flavours, so coming into spring we would have to see some Victorian spring lamb cutlets and every cutlet will have a tiny sprig of thyme on it. You’ll know that it’s spring in your mouth. I want you to walk out of here saying, gee that was flavoursome and I am full. And that’s the absolute must here.”
The wine bar will give Adam the opportunity to practice his mine host skills as he intends opening the Cafe on Friday and Saturday nights and also for dinner. The concept of a wine bar in Maleny has caught up with the metro trends of this small town that for example rates highly the quality of its coffee, cheese and ice cream.
Adam’s knowledge of wine comes largely from his role as area sales manager for Taylor Wines for the past eight years. It is a company he admires for its loyalty and commitment to its staff. Adam will remain with Taylors and they have strongly supported his new business venture.
Apart from Taylors wines Adam will source a wide range of Australian wines as well as offerings from Italy, France and other wine growing areas. He also intends having regular wine tastings.
Does Adam think he will be stretched thinly between the two business commitments?
“I don’t need to be here all the time. I will be here three times a week. There are times when people would want to see me in the business … breakfasts and Friday and Saturday nights to talk about wine.
Adam Johnson is a country boy with a sense of what country people want from a country cafe. And behind his warmth and good humour is a strong sense of who are his business competitors.
“Our competitors are not local, they are in Noosa, Mooloolaba and Caloundra. In the end, my social responsibility is to respect the values of this town and help present a unique hinterland experience.”
The Old Bank Cafe opens from 8-4pm six days a week (closed Mondays), and once a liquor licence is granted, it will open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights till late…
by Michael Berry