Five Minutes With… Vanessa McKinnon
Growing up in New Zealand surrounded by a family of incredible cooks meant it was inevitable that Vanessa McKinnon would inherit the foodie trait. After training as a chef in her home country, Vanessa began working in kitchens all around the globe before settling in Townsville 4 years ago and opening the famous Bakehouse on Eyre. Since this time, she has provided locals with delicious cuisine inspired from all corners of the world, and in the wake of the pandemic, has recently introduced special themed foodie events. We talked to Vanessa about the inspiration behind Bakehouse on Eyre, and the role her new events are playing in re-establishing Townsville’s foodie scene.
1. What was the inspiration behind founding Bakehouse on Eyre on New Year’s Eve in 2018?
I wanted to offer a new option of breakfast and lunch dining in Townsville where I could have better interaction with my customers and create a welcoming atmosphere. Our offer has been constantly refined and adapted in order to support our customers’ needs over the last couple of years. As the demand grew or reduced we tried to be flexible and always offer fresh and interesting food.
2. You have experienced a wide range of cuisines from around the world and have brought them back to North Queensland. Why is Townsville an ideal place to run a business?
I love the fierce local support Townsville people have for independent cafes. Their passion to have a taste of what might be offered in bigger cities results in great support for those having a go with something new. Not to mention the fabulous winters which support alfresco dining so well.
3. What has been the most challenging aspect of running your own business?
Wearing so many hats as a small business owner can often mean you get spread thin. Finding balance and making sure all areas are covered is a constant challenge. Truly loving what you do, working with great people and networking with other entrepreneurs helps you ride the roller coaster with a smile.
4. You’ve started organising special themed foodie events called “Table @Bakehouse,” and recently held one for the Winter Solstice. How has this helped re-establish Townsville’s foodie scene?
The Bakehouse Table events are there to offer something different to Townsville foodies in these challenging times. We all miss travelling and the amazing foods that come with those travels. Learning and growing as a team keeps us inspired and fulfilled as chefs. Not to mention they are so much fun!
The Winter Solstice Table, held on the 11th of June, was designed to be a celebration of cold weather comfort foods with a slightly medieval flair. We don’t have super cold days up here and often it’s too hot to truly enjoy Euro style foods. I designed a menu that would suit an evening of feasting under the stars with friends and delicious food, wine and live music. It was fabulous and we are so grateful for the support.
5. What advice would you give to others who are wanting to follow in your footsteps but are unsure as to where to start?
Do your research. Get your spreadsheets going. Understand your profit margins and target market as this is not an easy way to make a living. See where in the market you might fit…is there a gap? Is that gap supported by enough people to make it sustainable? Leave your ego and emotions at the door and try to serve the needs of the community. Talk to someone already doing what you want to do and ask for advice! There is lots of help out there if you seek it out. Get ready to dig in! The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.