Suzi: How long has Stockade Cellars been the amazing food and wine destination that Ballarat can’t live without?
Meg: We have been operating as a family business for about 35 years. It has been an independent liquor store for 20 years and the deli has been open for six years.
S: Do you have many recollections of the shop as a grocery store?
M: I remember aspects of the grocery store, but have mainly learned about it through old photographs and through stories told to me by my Nonno.
S: How long have you been Ballarat’s favourite deli girl?
M: I have been working at the shop since I was in year 9, so about 2006.
S: You are a bit of a champion in local hospitality circles – everybody seems to claim you as their liege. Where did you learn the restaurant and catering game?
M: A lot of what I know about hospitality came from working with the beautiful Tracey Charlton doing catering service. She is, essentially, what made me love hospitality. When it came to cafes, however, a lot of what I know is thanks to Viv Mason, who I worked with for my gap year in 2010 and where I learnt so much about food and what it was to be a waitress. I also have the wonderful pleasure of working with Peter Ford for his own functions, as well as when we do our dinners in the deli. Pete has taught me about class and precision and perfection. And Chloe, from Eclectic Tastes, is like my cooler, older sister and she has definitely taught me about hard work.
S: Let’s talk about the deli. What’s the most popular cheese?
M: By far, the Fromager d’Affinois double- cream brie. It melts in your mouth and I eat it by the kilo.
S: What’s the most popular meat delicacy?
M: Our gourmet honey ham and our prosciutto di parma, imported all the way from Italy.
S: And what’s your favourite, Meg?
M: Considering I love food, it is difficult to decide on what would be my favourite. I would have to say I can’t beat Will Studd’s Select Stilton cheese, Calendar Farmhouse Cheddar and duck orange pate. Oh, and pork and pistachio sausages.
S: I bet there are some extra special customers you have grown to love...
M: There are so many to choose from, but I would definitely have to give a shout out to little May from Clunes, who brings me fresh flowers from her garden; Debra, who has been a regular customer since we opened and who has made our stock of goat’s cheese survive; Craig Fletcher, who is always a true gentleman and always willing to have a conversation about life and food before we begin deciding what he will indulge in; the Italian Saturday morning ladies, who know how to make use of the gourmet meat in a deli; Eric and Alison, who come for their regular long black and soy latte; Heather, who is always willing to take on my advice on cheese and always so welcoming; Kim and Craig, late-arvo coffee regulars who are always so pleasant; and Peter Voterakis, who is like my second dad – we both share a love of good food. I love all of our customers and they all mean something different to me.
S: Tell me, which wines you are loving?
M: We are all about supporting those just like us. We always push Ballarat and district wines and the Pyrenees region. A favourite of mine is anything from the Warrenmang range and from Brown Magpie down at Geelong.
S: Do you stock Ballarat beer?
M: You bet we do. We stock The Rat, O’Brien Beers, Three Troupers and Red Duck beer.
S: How many staff do you guys employ?
Our business is literally family-grown and run, apart from the delivery boys we have at Christmas, who are used to our weird Italian ways and are part of the family too. Up until recently, it was myself, Dad, Mum, Nonno and my brothers, Lou and Serge, make an appearance when they feel like it.
Campana’s Stockade Cellars, Corner of Mair and Armstrong streets, Ballarat Central