Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marie Cook Needs Help

This is a special blog to introduce you to Marie Cook.
I met Marie on the Jamie Oliver Forum, one of the big online food forums. The loveliest thing about the JO forum is the core of lovely people from all around the world who post regularly and share some of their lives as well as their love of food.

Marie has a lovely presence on the forum, she has been part of it for more than twice as long as I have. Her posts and her blogs there show her love of food, entertaining, growing things, and her humour! Although she has been battling cancer all along, she has a warm, upbeat presence. I just love the photo she blogged of her birthday dinner last year. She has her bandanna and big smile and is giving her son such a loving hug.

Marie's battle with cancer intensified this year and we mostly kept track of her through updates from her friends. Then came the frightening news that she was finishing her scheduled cancer treatments without success, and her next option is cutting edge laser surgery that costs 22,000 pounds, way beyond anything she can afford!
Marie is desperate to keep fighting for her life and for her boys.

The forum swung into action! "We just need 22,000 people to donate a pound each!"
The Marie Cook Appeal Facebook Group was started.
A paypal account has been set up so that anyone anywhere in the world (almost!) can donate their 1 pound to help her.

"Let's give them something back for donations over 5 pounds" said Deb.
She suggested a downloadable recipe book full of our most special recipes, ones that hadn't been posted before. (I am in there with our Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake!).
Within a week she had enough recipes from foodloving forummers across the world to make a book (there are 34 fabulous recipes, we had to stop there or it would get too big to email). It is beautifully designed pdf file that it can be used on the computer, or printed out and folded to make a book.
So now our aim is to find those 22,000 people to donate a pound, or 4,400 people to donate 5 pounds (or more!) for the very special recipe book.

Here is what you can do to help Marie:

Go to the Marie Cook Appeal Website and press the donate button to put your pound in through paypal (it is safe and easy).

To get the very special recipe book: donate 5 pounds or equivalent, and when you are emailed the receipt send to themariecookappeal@gmail.com.Your recipe book will be emailed to you.

If you don't want to use paypal you can send your cheque made out to The Marie Cook Appeal to
89B Hammersmith Grove
London W6 0NQ
(with a note including your name and address so they can keep a running account please)

Join the Marie Cook Appeal Facebook Group

Spread the news! Make a link to this blog on your blog, your facebook page, or anywhere you think might help!

Note 1: Paypal is easy and safe (that is why we chose it!) When you put your amount to be donated in pounds, and then click your country, it shows you the exact amount it will be in your currency. You do need to fill in the whole form, but we so hope you will do this for Marie.

If you already have a paypal account it is even easier, just press the donate button and log on to your account.

Note 2: The recipe book is best printed out double sided to make a lovely little A5 book. I took mine on a USB stick to Officeworks where they printed it out in black and white for $1:50 (Australian). It printed up just beautifully. Colour is a lot more expensive, so I will have the colour copy on my computer and my handy little book to drip things over in the kitchen! I tied pink cord to keep it together:

If you have any problems with payment or recipe book, please let me know and I will try to help. If you get the recipe book and love it we would like that feedback too!

Thankyou for reading this! I will be back to the YamDaisy Cafe next post!

Friday, April 23, 2010

YamDaisy and Mumfood!

When I thought about the food at the YamDaisy Cafe I was inspired by Georgio Locatelli telling how a Locanda (small Italian inn) would simply serve the food the the family was eating that day. I knew that that was what people needed. Mumfood. Comfort meals. Delicious, everyday meals. Local seasonal ingredients. Slow food.... That is what I have based my YamDaisy idea around.

I developed the idea of a small homelike menu of few choices each day. A soup, 2 mains and a fruit based dessert. A small number of dishes to make it easier for the chef, and to reflect the 'mumfood' nature of the menu.

Then I had to consider how a chef would manage this day in, day out. The chef needs the balance between the interest of new foods, and the ease of bringing out a tried and tested menu. I thought about how I would like to set up the menu if I was cooking for 150 locals every day. The formula I came up with was to have a different menu every day of the week, but to repeat that menu for the four weeks of the month.
I will put an example of this below so you can see what I mean.

The chef can come up with a menu based on the local seasonal produce. Planning one week pretty well plans the month and hopefully each week will get easier to prepare and serve (plus each week responding to customer feedback ~ and variations in produce), and just when it might get boring there is a new month to plan for.

It is really easy to plan how to eat at the cafe.
If your favourite meal is up on Tuesday you can plan to eat at the cafe each Tuesday (or call in for takeaway). If you like trying a different dish each time, and you always eat at the Cafe on Tuesday, you have the variety of a soup one week, and each of the mains, and then whatever was your favourite on the last week!
If you eat there almost every day, you will get plenty of variety.
Or if you have particular food requirement, you can search out the gluten free option, the vegetarian one, or the meat and three veg one, and work your visit accordingly.

The biggest problem that has been pointed out to me is the issue of waste. Someone who had been involved with restaurants talked about having the same meal day after day on the menu means that left over ingredients etc aren't wasted. I do think this is an issue, it is important to avoid waste on every level! but I feel strongly that with the small menu there needs to be the variety over the week.
I am in favour of running out of food every day! I do know this is considered restaurant blasphemy, but it really can avoid the waste issue. It would work fine if the cafe had an excellent relationship with the customers so that there was a good sense of who will be in and what will they need. The community aspect of the Yamdaisy Cafe helps here. The personal relationships and the help of electronic communication make it easier.
The chef could twitter "Sorry we are out of Irish stew'
or "We have takeaway containers of fish cakes and fennel on special for $5 each. Hurry, only 20."
Also, careful menu planning means that the carrots in the salad on Monday could feature in the soup on Tuesday (for example), and in that way ingredients can be used most efficiently.

So that issue hasn't changed my mind! But please, argue with me! Can you see a better way to do it? Convince me.
I get a bit nervous structuring it all based on my own limited thinking! Let me know what you think. Cooks view and customers view welcome!

SAMPLE WEEKLY MENU to be repeated through a Melbourne (Autumn) April

Monday (Joy's Autumn Menu)
Soup: Zucchini Soup with a Dinner Roll
Main 1: Fried Rice with Coriander and Pepper Paste
Main 2: Mexican Polenta Stuffed Peppers With Refritos Beans and Salsa
Fruit Based Dessert: Apple Puree with Custard and an Oat Crisp

Soup: Wild Mushroom Soup with Thyme Scones
Main 1: Dal Makhani with Lemon Rice and Carrots Roasted with Cumin Seeds
Main 2: Red Bean and Chicken Bake with Green Salad
Fruit Based Dessert: Greek Yoghurt and Berries with Rosewater syrup.

Wednesday (Jinie's Menu)
Soup: Potato and Leek Soup with crusty bread
Main 1:Pasta Bake made with Grated Vegetables and Bolognaise sauce.
Main 2:Veggie Slice (a frittata with lots of vegetables) served with a Side Salad and a little bowl of Sweet Relish
Fruit Based dessert: Fruit Salad with Honey Icecream.

Thursday (Rose's menu)
Soup: Pumpkin Soup with a bread roll
Main 1: Macaroni Cheese and a Green Salad
Main 2: Chicken Caesar Salad Meal-in-a-bowl
Fruit Dessert: Apple Crumble and Custard

Soup: Autumn Minestrone
Main 1: Cornish Pasty with Autumn Salad
Main 2: Black Bean and Chilli Rice Vermicelli garnished with Spring Onions, Lettuce and Coriander
Fruit Based Dessert: Poached Pears with Baked Ricotta

Friday, April 16, 2010

YamDaisy Ambiance

Just when I am trying to update the food and menu sections of the YamDaisy Website, along comes a reminder of another important aspect of the cafe experience, and such an important one!
On my weekly 3RRR community radio treat of a food program 'Eat It' they had a segment about design in restaurants and how important it is.
These were the figures bandied around about what makes the visit a great experience for people:
25% Service
35% Chef and food
and another 35% on Ambiance ~ the feel of the place, the atmosphere, the culture, the coolness and the comfort!
(They also had a bit of discussion about how important the coffee after the meal is!.... Very important!)

I do respect these figures! But isn't it fascinating how some multimillion dollar redesign with all the latest everything might make no difference, and some greasy spoon tucked away somewhere just might zing!

These are important issues for the success of the YamDaisy Cafes. To work well, they need to be popular!
The Chef and Food are the core of the outfit. 
The Service ~ the relationship staff have with the customers, and the way food is served is also very important..... 
But every YamDaisy Cafe will need a wonderful Ambiance!
How is this done? How will it be done on a franchise level? Because I want the YamDaisy Organization to be setting up cafes wherever they will work, and each community needs their one to be a great place to go to.

Here are some of the ideas I have had:
  • A space that is easy to be in for people with all different abilities. This is always tricky because the cafes will be small, and we will need wheelchair and maybe scooter access, lovely practical lighting, big chairs for obese people, comfort and space for mums with little children, coolness for teenagers, peace for the frail elderly and, ofcourse, set up really well for the service of the food.
  •  A vibrant space, full of the richness of art, colour, form and texture that makes each particular YamDaisy cafe fresh and different and a jewel in its community.
  • Changing the ambiance throughout the day or the week or year to suit the cafe customers: lighting, music. warmth, even space (e.g.between the tables) can change if it is designed well.
  • A sustainable space, design that uses eco friendly materials and minimizes waste.
Well, really I have had only one idea for putting all this together, but I think it is a good one!

Design Students! 

Wouldn't it be great if Yamdaisy worked with the places that taught Design. What a brief to give to Design Students! What a way to be incorporating fresh bright ideas and at the same time adding to the experience and skills of upcoming designers! What a wonderful real life practical exercise for them!

The YamDaisy organization would have a great deal of work to do overseeing this (but what a great job!): networking with the University or TAFE or Design School setting up rigorous plans, consulting and checking the practicalities, costing and so on. But this would also be on a scale which means the systems could be set in place and streamlined. I would imagine the cafe's design should be refreshed every 5 years at the most, bringing in issues of retrofitting and renovating in a way that interrupts business as little as possible. More good lessons for the design students to learn!

I love that this sort of process would help develop the feeling of community ownership, keep bringing fresh ideas forward, feeds back to help the students (great for their CV's) as well as bringing wonderful design to the YamDaisy Cafes! Each one will be so different and so cool! (I hope!)
And Yes I have an eye on the cost saving! And indeed, the students could be encouraged to factor in more cost saving: recycled furniture, decorating with found objects, working with local school children to design art pieces etc.

Do you like this idea? What have I missed out? Are there things that you feel are very important when creating ambiance?

PS My plan was for a picture to illustrate this post that showed some art, some style and a sense of music.... but I got up this morning and found all the ambiance I wanted in my morning cup of coffee!! I do hope it created a welcoming atmosphere for today's post! Cheers everyone!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


It is a year since I posted the first time, and I am celebrating what a lot I have learnt and what a treat it has been. I hadn't a clue when I began, and it has been such a lovely surprise to find the blogosphere community and the generosity and support of people all over the world.
I chose a few things to put in the photo with my one year anniversary candle. The tortoise is my symbol of 'slow and steady wins the race' and that my project is Slow Community Development.
That is a crocodile tooth at the bottom! It comes from the McArthur River near Borroloola where I taught many years ago. That is a symbol of power (and how amazing life can be!).

The bird is hard to see, so here is another picture: 

I was born in the year of the chook, and I like the mother hen thing balancing with the crocodile tooth!
And finally all the spirals: My daughter painted the one on a rock for me at a camp by a river. A friend brought the pendant as a gift for me from her visit to Bali last month, and the metal spiral has just come to light after lurking in a forgotten corner for several years. They show how you can go round in circles but still make progress! I can't have too many of them!

In my slow tortoisey way I am doing a big crocodile tooth update of my website to incorporate the things I have learnt about communicating the idea of my YamDaisy Cafes. And in my mother chook way I want to get it all nested and comfortable! And then I will be ready to spiral out again!

I am expecting this will instigate some interesting blogs to put up as I go!

It has been such a lovely adventure of a year thanks to you all, I am so happily looking forward to the next one!