Hawthorn café Our Kitchenette shifts to retail & ready-made meals
Known by its regulars as Kitchenette, the cosy, heartfelt café that opened in 2015 in leafy Hawthorn has restructured their business. They’ve moved from a café to ready-made meals, tableware and espresso bar. Chef Jenna Abbruzzese and her business partner, Maitre d’ Megan Griffey, opened Our Kitchenette to provide café-style food and warm, generous service to a hungry Hawthorn audience.
They’ve built a strong following of regulars who have taken to the friendly and professional culture the pair have cultivated.
Then along came 2020 and the global pandemic. When the “density rule” was introduced for hospitality in March, Jenna and Megan didn’t so much pivot, as take a leap of faith. “We knew that our little café would not be able to operate viably. We needed a new business model altogether,” says Megan.
Within 24 hours of the announcement the pair bought a display fridge and Jenna extended their range of ready-to-eat take-home meals.
Customers, wary of supermarkets in those early days, appreciated the new range of daily essentials, Phillippa’s bakery sourdough, free range eggs, milk and Dr Marty’s crumpets.
Further research cemented the business model. “Our customers told us they were disheartened at having to cook and clean three times a day for everyone at home as restrictions meant they weren’t able to dine-out as often as they had before,” says Megan.
Jenna came to the rescue with her range of ready-made meals. “These are solutions for busy people, and they are reliable and delicious,” says Jenna. The range includes Donati’s pork and fennel sausages in sugo; Persian-spiced lamb shanks and Greek chicken doused in lemon juice and oregano. “The Greek chicken is very popular. Complete the meal by blanching some broccolini or throwing together a beautiful salad with tomatoes and feta,” says Jenna.
There are sides; an addictive potato salad and “everyone needs” mashed potatoes along with a range of house-made jams and preserves.
Desserts and cakes are a highlight; chocolate mousse and tiramisu sell-out almost every day. Friands and brownies are baked daily and there is a roster of whole cakes like Vanilla Chiffon and a Chocolate Celebration Cake.
Another string to the Kitchenette bow is tablewares. “Dining at home has become more important during the lockdowns and we want to help make it stunning,” says Megan, of their range of table linens by Pure Linen and handthrown crockery by Melbourne based ceramic artist, Cath Hayward.
Jenna and Megan met at Langton’s, now Cecconi’s, when Nicky Riemer was head chef. Nicky proved to be the first of many strong female chef/role models to nurture Jenna’s talent.
Stints with Rosa Mitchell and Karen Martini along with a season in Europe at a 5-star hotel have shaped Jenna’s cooking. “Perfecting classics is my thing. I love to feed people delicious food, familiar flavours to remind them of happy times.”
Megan’s innate sense of hospitality was honed in New York. No longer having tables to look after hasn’t fazed her. “I didn’t want to lose that sense of the customer being pampered, that I could anticipate their needs and ensure they were indulged, even if we were a food store instead of a café. I believe there can be huge pleasure in shopping for good food.”
Kitchenette’s new business model taps into its community’s needs. Jenna and Megan regularly curate a selection of quality ready-made meals and stylish tableware to ensure their discerning customer-base is always well catered for. “We are niche,” says Megan. “We are all about quality over quantity and providing great experiences for our customers.”
Our Kitchenette 217 Riversdale Road Hawthorn, 3122
Open: Mon-Fri 8am-2pm
Delivery (free delivery 5kms from Our Kitchenette): Mon- Fri 2.30pm-5pm