“I went to high school at Eltham College and they have a restaurant there so I worked as an apprentice chef during high school and then moved to London for a year where I worked at a fine-dining restaurant and really honed my craft. When I returned to Melbourne, I took over running a kitchen with my husband in Templestowe next door to where my shop is now.”
The who, the why & the how of Gourmet Living
Bek McMillan creator of Gourmet Living
Bek McMillan worked as a chef in London and Melbourne for 12 years before taking over the kitchen of The Living Room in Templestowe. Eventually, she decided to chase her dream of opening a cellar-door style provedore in Melbourne, helping connect small-scale local producers with foodies in the city.
Taking the kitchen to the shopfront
Bek’s husband is the co-owner and Head Chef of The Living Room. So after cheffing around Melbourne for 10 years, Bek decided it was time to open up her own shop.
“My husband’s family is from Milawa, so I was inspired by all the wineries and their cellar door stores, and provedore stores around there and the Milawa Olive shop, and the cheese shop. I wanted to combine these stores and open it up in the suburbs instead of a country town. It was important for me to stock small, local, family-run businesses and support them. I host cooking classes and teach my customers how to cook using the products, and we also create luxury high-end hampers for local businesses too.”
Making time for research
Bek took two years to research and prepare for launching her dream store. She comprehensively expanded her network of suppliers by hitting the road and driving around Victoria to find them.
“We opened in October 2012 after two years of traveling around to farmers’ markets all over the place and meeting lots of producers. I noticed that most of these producers were small family run businesses and they weren’t marketed for supermarkets, and really many only had farmers’ markets, and their local provedores to sell their products. So after two years of finding producers and testing their products, I opened up Gourmet Living in Templestowe.”
Going all in on opening up
The decision was a long time coming for Bek, but ultimately it was an easy one.
“I did my time in a commercial kitchen. It’s quite secluded and I’m such a people person that I just wanted to be front of house chatting to customers all the time, so I was keen to get out of the kitchen, take my knowledge into a space where I could interact with customers directly and share that knowledge. I started cooking classes a few months after opening the shop so I could share my passion and show customers how the cook using the products in our store.”
While learning more about how to make her business numbers’ help her grow, Bek secured some solid wins that helped pave the way forward for further growth.
“Aside from the retail store, the other main aspect of our business is selling hampers to corporate businesses, which relies on much more outbound effort. Our clients don’t come to us, we had to set up a sales process and find businesses, organise meetings and really put in a lot of leg work to get them onboard, but it worked. We got a few large businesses onboard and they have monthly orders, which is a steady alternate revenue stream. I was also a finalist in The Telstra Young Business Woman Awards (Victoria) in 2015. That helped with exposure and aligning myself with like-minded business women.”
Article written by Andy Summons and published by Moula
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