Each week, Ballarat chef and food writer Suzi Fitzpatrick quizzes industry identities on the local hospitality scene. This week, she caught up with the creative talents behind Open Pantry and Main Bar in Main Road, Bakery Hill – Cinda Manning and Glenn Stevens.
Around 20 years ago Cinda Manning came to Ballarat to study anthropology. Cupid had other ideas. While antique hunting in Main Road she meet Glenn Stevens. This cutting edge couple have put Main Road, Bakery Hill, on the map, not just as a feast of fabulous food but as a feast for the eyes as well.
Suzi: I bet you never thought you would end up running a bespoke food venue and produce store in Ballarat.
Cinda: I must admit in the early days I was torn between Melbourne and Ballarat. But Ballarat is really changing. I do love it.
S: I assume most people know Main Bar, but, if for some strange reason someone hasn’t had a chance to pull up a chair at Glenn’s meticulously restored shop bring us up to speed.
C: Glenn opened Main Bar in May 2009. He is a builder by trade with a penchant for all things old having grown up in Daylesford immersed in the history of the spring’s area. This, coupled with his Swiss Italian heritage which evokes a gregarious love of good food and wine, makes Main Bar a natural extension of himself.
S: Glenn had such a small area to work with - adding a wood fi re pizza oven was a smart move. Has Glenn honed his skills to include pizza master?
C: Glenn is a really random pizza maker. He gets lost in all his bull boars and salamis. Our pizza master and chef at Main Bar is Rob Smith.
S: In a moment of brilliance Glenn and Cinda purchased the two shops next door. What was the dream?
C: It was Glenn’s grand vision to slowly work at restoring the original 1850s buildings. You can see in our glass display the original balsawood models Glenn created of the three buildings, also some of the artefacts we have unearthed.
S: . . . because of course right now we are sitting in the unfinished/fi nished grand vision! Kevin McCloud eat your heart out.
C: As of three weeks ago we are open for business. This room gives us the space to complete our venues. Open Pantry has been operating for eight months. We have had to send a lot of people off with a take-away bag, as there was nowhere to sit. Now we can fit at least 30. As Glenn continues to build we will open the wall into Main Bar for evening dining.
S: Open Pantry is your domain Cinda. It’s an amazing space. I can see you really enjoy being at the helm, sourcing the best ingredients. You are also a passionate foodie.
C: I’m hoping to encourage people to break away from the “down down” prices along with the “down down” standards of the big supermarkets. I focus on sourcing the best ingredients, local and regional. And, when the ingredients can’t be bought locally, for example vanilla bean, I get the best most ethically produced available.
S: What are some of your favourite local staples?
C: I'm so proud to have Basilio bread for our sandwiches and John Harbour’s beautiful ham. Inglenook Dairy in Dunnstown supplies us with milk – locally processed in Warrenheip by the Britt family.
S: Now that you have the space, you have expanded your menu. What can I look forward to trying when I come back . . . tomorrow?
C: Our chef at Open Pantry Marcus Bradley loves good healthy food and will not compromise on quality. We really want to do our own thing and we mix it up quite a bit. You’ll have to try everything ... starting with our daily salads like wild rice, cranberries and toasted almonds. House made pasties with flaky pastry, maybe a Moroccan chicken pie. Or something more substantial like our giant agnolotti with burnt sage butter.