Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Meet Your (Coffee) Maker: Drew Mason

A teacher-come-barista, Drew Mason is part of the Stockroom family, who came to live on Piper Street back in early July.

Invited by friend Jason Waterhouse to get involved in the hospitality side of the business, Drew set about fashioning a mobile coffee cafe from an old 1960s Winnebago caravan, et voila, Winnebagel was born!

It’s a novel idea that took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get just right, including scouring the net to find the "campervan".

Red is his colour... You'll find Winnebagel in the lounge area of Stockroom, nestled amongst the Ataris, stencil art and old books, just to the side of the vintage wares mezzanine.

Winnebagel has already been recognised by two of Australia’s pre-eminent food publications: in The Age’s Epicure, featured in the November 16 issue in Mary O’Brien’s column on page 3 (where she highlighted his “nostalgic” snacks, chocolate crackles, honey joys and cocounut ice); and in The Australian newspaper’s Food Detective column in September, who called Winnebagel “the canniest food business idea of the year.”

Drew has fitted out the coffee caravan with a 50s-style Italian Fiorenzato Ducale coffee machine and uses Social Roasting Company’s ‘social’ blend of coffee – an ‘ethically produced’ product. Then there are the bagels… Mmm, yum.

Time to meet your (coffee) maker.. Drew Mason.

Stockroom: How did the idea for the coffee caravan at Stockroom come about?

Drew Mason: The caravan was born of necessity. Getting a factory rezoned as a restaurant takes a seriously long time. However building a tricked up food van, that can go out the rollerdoor, down the road and off to get checked out by council was far simpler.

Above, Winnebagel. Pic: Henrik Dannerfjord

SR: You're a teacher - how did you come to be a barista? You have a background in hospitality too?

DM: Actually, Jason and I met when we started working at the same cafe, Planet Earth, about 15 years ago. I'd been working and hanging out in that cafe on and off until it closed a couple of years ago. Maybe Winnebagel is just filling in that void.

SR: What do you like best about the job?

DM: It's challenging and I get to drink a lot of coffee and chat, which is how I like to spend my weekends anyway.

SR: One of the most impressive features at Winnebagel is the fact you sell chocolate crackles - what other food do you sell there? And how do the 'old school’ snacks go over?

DM: People love the ‘nostalgia food’. It's weird. Who'd have thought that given a choice between a blueberry friand and a crackle that the crackle will win hands down every time?!

I've also revived the 80s-style ham cheese n’ tomato, squished in a contact grill toasty (at Jason's insistance), and that's pretty popular, too.

SR: Are you inspired by the current 'resurgence' in food culture - or is this an interest you've had since you were a kid?

DM: I've always had a healthy appetite, and my parents take their food pretty seriously too. That being said it's nice to see the food culture is still growing, especially outside of the capital cities.

SR: What ambitions do you have for Winnebagel?

DM: I'm keen on saving the world. So I guess I'll be looking at more ethical, organic and free-range. The coffee is very ethical, but I can do a lot more with the food.

Left, pic of Winnebagel by Henrik Dannerfjord.

SR: Will you take Winnebagel on the road?

DM: Hopefully Winnebagel will be hitting Kyneton train station Monday to Friday, but there's no escaping Stockroom on the weekend unless I buy another van.

SR: What is your secret for making a good coffee?

DM: Take a bit of pride in it, and if it's crook, don't be afraid to laugh it off and start over.

SR: What's the best thing somone has said to you about a) your coffee and b) Winnebagel, so far?

DM: I have a close relationship with my parents, so to hear that they were genuinely impressed was a great feeling.

Also last weekend someone ordered three coffees in a row. As soon as he finished his cup he came back for another! Now that was flattering….

Visit Drew in his Winnebagel any time on the weekend at Stockroom, open Saturdays and Sundays, 10am – 5.30pm.

Above, happy campers at Winnebagel. Pic: Megan Spencer

View more photos of Winnebagel on Stockroom's Facebook, and read more about Winnebagel in The Australian online. Drew can be contacted on 0410 842 016.