December 15, 2015

Candy Weiss & Mama Chomp

Café Culture has known Candy Weiss for at least six years. She works as Head Coffee Trainer for the iconic company Dimattina Coffee and has been an integral part of the Golden Bean barista team for the past four years. On the other side of her full-time job with Dimattina Coffee, Candy has a new act. She has become famous for her gluten free Wagon Wheels and is now spreading her wings with more baked goodies and her new brand, Mama Chomp.

So Candy, we’ve been watching things unfold on FB, and the secret’s finally out. Tell us how did all of this come about?
Apart from coffee, which has been a main driving passion in my life, cooking is something I’ve always loved doing. My mum is a gorgeous cook, and I guess I caught the creative, entertaining vibe from her. Cooking is where I escape to; I tend to lose track of time. One of my favourite memories of my father is when I first made him my orange and chocolate biscotti. I told him to go easy on it, because it took me a long time to cook as it was double baked. It should have lasted him a week or two, but he always ate the entire tin I made him in about two days.
I love to hold dinner parties, and I get such satisfaction out of feeding and nurturing family and friends. For many years now I’ve spoken of one day opening my own café; it’s felt like an eternal dream. I’ve always been complimented on my cooking, encouraged to have my own place, audition for cooking shows or just become people’s private cooks.
Totally flattered, I started exploring baking and cooking gluten-free when my partner was diagnosed a few years ago now with Hashimotos, an autoimmune disease. Antibodies in her body attack her thyroid function and after much research, she decided to help her immune system by avoiding gluten, amongst other things.
I started the gluten free cooking journey. It took a while to work out how to substitute flours and ingredients and many mistakes were made, but once I perfected a recipe – it was worth it. We have relaxed on the foods we had initially ruled out, but by then I couldn’t help but still cook gluten free and still challenge myself with altering recipes. I must say I do enjoy a challenge. I never intended to start baking from home, but sometimes things are right under your nose, and you have to follow the call.
I decided I wanted to start small and test the waters, so to speak. Melbourne’s café market is so saturated, finding my niche amongst it all felt a little overwhelming. Not because I thought for one second I wouldn’t succeed, but because I wanted to explore my cooking creatively without pressure and let it grow more organically. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew. My goal is small batch baking, offering more specialised goods and quality ingredients.
How did you come up with Mama Chomp?
The name of my business was really important, and as I always had names picked for cafés, I had no idea what to call it. It actually all started with a stamp my partner, Sym, found for me in a recycled art place, and it is now what my logo is built around. Symone always liked the word “chomp” and said it over and over, as it ties in with my logo. I wasn’t so keen, but decided to bounce some ideas around with my oldest sister. After a night of texting names and ideas back and forth, we thought we’d leave it for another day. I woke up the next morning to a text from my sister Natalie saying, “You are Mama Chomp.” It was perfect.
I currently still work in my day job. I adore what I do in the world of coffee, but the need to alter my hours is next on the list as I start to grow. I do hope to be able to run my own business full-time in the future.
Did you end up with your kitchen HACCP approved, and are you working from home?
I explored finding a commercial kitchen to cook from with lots of wonderful offers and ideas, but apart from being expensive, it also didn’t quite fit what I needed. After much encouragement, I decided to speak with the local council to see if my home kitchen could be approved. A health office gave an inspection, and I was given a small list of things to alter. A hand sensor tap was the biggest job, but once it was all completed, I could then be approved as a class three establishment. The relief at being able to bake from home was amazing. It fits in well with my work, as I can bake anytime conveniently, and I can show my partner what I do and how she can help.
How does your partner work around that? What does she do, by the way?
Sym works as a full-time educational leader with kids and also in the arts, but loves to cook. Her support, creativity and belief in my success is incredibly inspiring. We make a great team, and I’ll need help to grow and keep up with orders, and she is more than willing to be my right hand girl. The best part about working from home and how my kitchen space is set up is we still get to talk and spend time together. Whether we are doing separate things or cooking together, I love knowing she’s close by.
Where/how do you source your products?
Currently I source a lot of my organic products from Terra Madre in Northcote. They are an amazing organic retailer where I can access large amounts of product at a great price. I have many favourite supermarket products that I like to use, and I want to match these with a foodservice wholesaIer. The need to have a wholesaler for many of my staples is required as my batches of goodies grows, which I’m currently researching. It’s exciting to watch my baby steps come together and grow with my needs; it’s exactly how I wanted to face this.
I’m lucky to know many people in the foodservice industry, so tried and true advice has been shared so kindly with me as to reputable companies to look at.
I currently sell a few of my goodies in South Melbourne at Dimattina Café, with invaluable feedback and cheers of support. My take on a gluten free wagon wheel seems to be a winner. Current flavours include salted caramel, wild blueberry and cherry coconut. More flavours are being developed and will be released as the recipe is perfected and tested on willing tastebuds. I do a gluten free, refined sugar free banana date loaf and mini loaves, a raw organic peppermint slice and a sour cream cheese cake to die for.
Who are you targeting?
My goal is to be able to supply small batch, quality, handmade and home baked goodies to specialist cafés that don’t have the time to bake for themselves.
What’s your plan of action to get your products out into the market place?
This means baking a bunch of goodie packs and spending time meeting café owners, sharing samples and product lists. I’d love to be able to sell wagon wheel inspired biscuits online offering an Australia wide delivery, as I feel these are my signature product.
The big picture for me is to outgrow my kitchen and move into a space with more facilities. I’d like to cater packs for special occasions, do private catering with a personaIised touch.
Thanks for your time, Candy; we wish you every success. Please keep some time aside to join us each year at the Golden Bean, hopefully with armfuls of wagon wheels to keep the Barista Engine Room firing.
To contact Candy at Mama Chomp:  FB and Instagram
Email enquiries:

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