Bec Bowie: A day in the life of the founder of Estabar By Judith

Thank you to the Newcastle Herald and writer Judith Whitfield for this beautiful story. I hope you enjoy knowing why we do what we do at estabar x Bec

 A fan of good food: Bec Bowie, owner of Estabar, with some Sandy Hill avocados, at her home in Newcastle East. As she says: "When you say no to gassed or cold storage fruit and veg, you just get what nature gives you. We think that's ok. This means sometimes we don't have ripe avocados and it means we always treat them each one of them as precious." Picture: Marina Neil

A fan of good food: Bec Bowie, owner of Estabar, with some Sandy Hill avocados, at her home in Newcastle East. As she says: "When you say no to gassed or cold storage fruit and veg, you just get what nature gives you. We think that's ok. This means sometimes we don't have ripe avocados and it means we always treat them each one of them as precious." Picture: Marina Neil

If you’ve been to Newcastle beach in the past 15 years, chances are you’ve seen Estabar - a small bustling cafe overlooking the water. And if you’ve been to Estabar, no doubt you’ve seen owner Bec Bowie inside. She’s got one of those faces you swear you’ve seen before, because you probably have.

Bec is passionate, friendly and fun. But she is also smart, principled and creative. She has run a successful small business despite facing huge obstacles from the CBD redevelopment. She is a mother, wife, advocate and integral member of the Newcastle community through her Hello Newy East social media project. And she loves good food. And coffee.

We followed her daily routine - co-ordinating family life with work, pleasure and her passions - and came out the other side inspired, and needing a cup of tea.

 All in: Bec Bowie with her twin sons, Alby and Van, making pancakes at home. Picture: Marina Neil

All in: Bec Bowie with her twin sons, Alby and Van, making pancakes at home. Picture: Marina Neil

6am  

Wake up and smell the coffee. Bec lives in Newcastle East with her husband of eight years, Trent, and their twin sons, Alby and Van, 4. Plus Harry and Batsy their pooches. 

The day starts pretty much like everyone else’s - waking up with the kids. “I brush my teeth. Then we all pile downstairs and put the coffee pot on. Coffee comes first,” she says.  

“My husband pours the coffee and for me, that coffee is the most special coffee of the day because he’s making it for me and we’re drinking it together. It really sets the tone.”

Bec Bowie on the start of her day

 Real life: Bec Bowie on her boys: "They know a lot of the people who are putting food on their table which I really, really love." Picture: Marina Neil

Real life: Bec Bowie on her boys: "They know a lot of the people who are putting food on their table which I really, really love." Picture: Marina Neil



“We can say to them ‘Alice [from Baked Uprising] made you that bread’, or ‘the kombucha was made by Erin'. They know a lot of the people who are putting food on their table which I really, really love. And they have a massive love affair with Sarah [Sivyer, from Just Been Laid] who’s got the chicken farm. We’ve been up several times to put the new chickens to bed, to teach them how to roost. So now, if we‘re having a chicken for dinner, they’ll say ‘Sarah’s going to miss this chicken’. So I’m surprised they haven’t turned into little vegetarians.”

But like most kids, they have a soft spot for junk. They love fresh white packet bread and will sample a few lollies at a party.

“Sometimes Alby comes down in the morning before any of us and we open the pantry door and there he is, standing on the toaster, ratting through the cupboards looking for Dad’s biscuits and Dad’s chocolate and he’ll say ‘Mum I found so many fun things for me to eat this morning!’.”

You don’t have to search too far to see Bec’s whole-food approach isn’t that far removed from her childhood upbringing on the Mid North Coast.

“I grew up in Taree and my dad fished all the time and we had a butcher around the corner and we had a big veggie patch in the backyard and we had a bunch of neighbours so there was always fresh food being passed around the street.”

“But we definitely ate TipTop and margarine as kids too.” These days, a couple of really thick-cut slices of freshly-baked sourdough lathered in butter is more tempting.

9am

Once all the boys have left, Bec puts the house back together, then heads to Estabar. “I stopped working when I was pregnant because I was enormous. I’ve only just started back and I really, really love it. Mondays and Tuesdays I work on the floor which leaves Thursdays for me to do all my back of house stuff.”

That’s when she’ll spend the morning working on a project, or in this case, heading to the laundromat because the washing machine has carked it.  

“I usually sit down and do social media stuff. My normal practice would be a post for Estabar and a post for Hello Newy East and then I would start thinking about the projects that I need to work on for Estabar.”

Estabar is one of Newcastle’s success stories. It’s only a small space, but it’s got a big heart and a big community behind it. It was the allure of working with a good team that attracted Bec to the idea in the first place.

 The start: Bec Bowie at Estabar in 2004.

The start: Bec Bowie at Estabar in 2004.

“I did a Bachelor of Business at Newcastle University. It was all I knew I wanted to do - a business. I worked at Newcastle City Council for five years after uni, in economic development, tourism specifically. I was excited about Newcastle and I was excited about community.”

“Newcastle City Council was a great place for me to learn about community and collaboration, but after five years . . . I was not happy with the culture. My boyfriend [and business partner] at the time lived in Barcelona. He rang and said ‘there’s a space we could rent on Newcastle Beach where we could open a gelato and espresso bar’. I remember thinking I’d rather go broke in my own business than go mad at local government and so I jumped at the chance.”

Bec quit her job and prepared to open her first business. She had no background in hospitality, so she worked at some local cafes for six months to better understand the industry.

“In the end, I just kept getting fired,” she laughs.

Regardless, Estabar opened on November 19, 2004. Right from day one it was all about her staff and her customers.

 Good food: Bec Bowie, in a 2009 photo shoot about Estabar's commitment to good local produce. Picture: Kitty Hill

Good food: Bec Bowie, in a 2009 photo shoot about Estabar's commitment to good local produce. Picture: Kitty Hill

"I just really wanted to work with a great team who were passionate about their lives and were going to bring 110 per cent and we were going to take care of people.”

Although sometimes it was the customers taking care of her.

“We weren’t intending to do food. It was Brian [a regular from day one] who said ‘Rebecca, for God’s sake, can you buy a jar of Vegemite and some bread and just at least serve toast?’ We had this idea…where you’d come, have a delicious pastry and a beautiful gelato, your coffee would be to die for, and you’d look at the beach, and that was it. We totally misjudged that, and so we put Vegemite toast on the menu.”

After years of eating toast and pastries, drinking coffee and living a hectic life, Bec was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. She knew she had to learn more about the role food plays in health and wellbeing and enrolled in a five-month course at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York in 2006.  

“I went to New York because I really wanted to learn how to nourish myself and my people, I thought ‘if I’m going to feed people, I want to be feeding them really well’.”

While she was studying real food, she worked long hours at an Indian restaurant in the heart of Manhattan, and there she learnt about reducing waste.

“They didn’t waste anything. Everything went into the stockpot. If they opened a fridge door, there was a countdown.”

She came back brimming with ideas, but took her time. While the Estabar ethos had always been clear - fresh, locally-sourced food - she had to find the suppliers who aligned with her vision.  

“I knew I had to put a meal together without having to reach for a packet.”

 As you like it: Sourdough, avocado and feta - all local - at Estabar.

As you like it: Sourdough, avocado and feta - all local - at Estabar.

Because we 'love your guts' we work with suppliers that do too.

 James … the James in James in James and Rose, with Frankie who believes bears live at his house and come to eat at estabar.  LOVE!

James … the James in James in James and Rose, with Frankie who believes bears live at his house and come to eat at estabar. LOVE!

What follows is a list of really great people.
People who have respect for where food has come from,
what it is and what it needs to be to really nourish us. Growers, makers and creators who have their eyes locked on the future of
good food for all of us.

Tomato Kassoundi and Brinjal Pickle: prepared to an old family recipe by @jamesandrose
Eggs: by fifth generation Upper Allyn farmer, Sarah @justbeenlaid 
Sourdough: culture, flour, water and sea salt - that’s it - by @bakeduprising 
Smoked Salmon: by Tassies Huon aquaculture - championing ethical fish farming
Labna: Hunterbelle yoghurt hung with smoked salt from @scoopwholefoods til cheesy and delicious
Pesto: Mangrove Mountain herbs from Sam, salty, savoury miso and
Macadamias from Medowie 
Beans: Spiced with @wholefoodfamily mustard, paprika and maple syrup
Avocados: we only use local avos, they’re just the best, thanks to Chris and Dan at Sandy Hills
Oat Porridge: like your grandma made it, Honest to Goodness organic steel cut and rolled oats soaked and cooked low and slow
Tomato chutney: Anna Bay tomatoes, a wood fired oven and generations of jamming experience, by our Jam Lady Maralyn
Spices: so so fresh, from Chris @mysoudrawer in Hunter St Mall
Stewed Rhubarb: organic rhubarb from Sam at Mangrove Mountain
Smoked Ham: done right, damn tasty, by Adamstown Fresh Meats
Cheddar: by Jason and Annie @hunterbelledairyco
Proper pickle: local organic vegetables, fermented til they’re salty, sour, gut healing goodness @wholefoodfamily
Coffee: by Single O, because they think like we do - only bigger - relationship + sustainability + flavour + fun
Gelato: childhood friends Alfredo and Joe make authentic Italian gelato using boyish imaginations and all natural ingredients
Kombucha: by Erin using fruits of the Pillidge Farm orchard 
Immune Juice: by chef, mumma of four and Juice-Therapist Maggie at @freshfusionaus
Weekend sweet special: by Mumma of three and baking enthusiast Alice 
Local and Seasonal: we shop at Newcastle Farmers Market, so our menu naturally follows the seasons and changes frequently



What did your Dad teach you about life?

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This week, in the lead up to Fathers Day, we're asking our customers this question.  It's turning out to be quite thought provoking and very heart warming ... mostly!

As a kid, I sat sandwiched between the fire and my Dad's Lazee Boy, asking him allll the questions, telling him all my stories and snaffling as many Salt and Vinegar Chips as possible.

In all that time and in all the other times i learnt so many things. Here's a random list.

So, essentially every day at estabar is a throw back to the best days of my childhood, gelato and the beach - and my chosen family of all of you.  

Presentation is everything.

Its important to be kind to people.

You just don't know what people are going through.

You won't be a princess when you grow up.

You're going to have to work hard, so you should choose something you love doing.

Not everybody will like you in life.

You've got to laugh.

If you don't eat you'll die and sausages are cheap.

Save, don't spend.  But when you spend, buy quality.

Dad also introduced me to avocado on toast, about 25 years before it became the hit it is now.  Who knew!

There are a great many times I have gone ahead and done something Dad cautioned against.  Pretty much, every time, things have worked out, because of the lessons i have learnt from Dad.  There's a lot of Dads energy and intention at estabar,

Our GELATO SEASON PASS came about last Fathers Day as i reflected on time spent with my Dad and remembered all those Sundays we went for drives to the beach as a family and ate icecream.  Bubble-o-Bills for the kids, Cornetto's and Hearts for Dad and Mum.  Good times for everyone.  So, essentially every day at estabar is a throw back to the best days of my childhood, gelato and the beach - and my chosen family of all of you.  

The Gelato Season Pass is 48 scoops of gelato, designed to bring a family of four together every week over gelato and by the beach.  Valued at $240, we offer it for $200, or for free for the lucky person whose piece of Dad Wisdom is pulled from the jar at estabar on Sunday.

Thanks to my Dad and all the Dads and Father Figures that contribute positively to our lives.

Bec

Our gift to your Mum

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This year will be our third Mothers Day complimentary photo shoot.

Photographer Lee Illfield will be at estabar between 9-11 to capture your Mothers Day Love.  It's super dooper easy (and heaps of fun).

Just assemble your family at estabar and smile!

Lee will send you all the images direct.

Happy Mothers Day friends!

PS. You can book your time with the guys at the bar, if you're on a tight Mothers Day schedule. 02 4927 1222

This is Chris!

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Chris here is the beating heart behind the rambling edible feast in Newcastle Easts' Community Garden.

The Sandhills Community Garden is a beautiful, fertile little oasis tucked in behind the Carriage Shed in Foreshore Park. This little plot adds a little fresh green to a lot of community plates.

It’s a love project for Chris.

Chris is one of those quite-achieving champions of the community that needs to be supported.

At the moment, she is spending her own money to buy plants for the garden.

So, this week, $1 from each lunch meal served will go to Chris and the Community Garden.  There is a little pot on the bar for you to add a dollar or two if you wish.

have you got the heart, the intention, the sense of humour, the ahem...knife skills...to run our kitchen?

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Before you answer that question, maybe ask yourself this question.

'How do you feel about our prevailing food culture?' 

If you come up with something like...

I feel it’s time to get back to real food, where farmers farm in accordance with nature, where fruits and vegetables are allowed to be what they are, where the food we eat is actually capable of nourishing us, where we eat to share, to love, to connect and to nourish ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then you feel the way we feel, read on ...

estabar vision:

Remember walking into your grandma’s house? You were always welcome, you were always a special guest. Grandma simultaneously wanted to feed you good food and spoil you rotten. That’s what we want customers of estabar to feel like.

estabar mission:

We value authenticity. The products we choose, the farmers, makers and creators we work with & the team we build.  We are all driven by passion and purpose for the greater good. This foundation delivers food that will nourish the eater and the environment (and coffee that will deliver the inspiration or the daydream our customers are searching for.) 

purpose of role:

We need a new esta to take control of our kitchen.  Days and hours are flexible, but the outcome is not negotiable - a clean, ordered, well stocked kitchen producing beautiful, delicious and nutritious food consistently and on-time to feed our community.

Key Tasks:

food

  • All ingredients are handled with care and served at their best
  • Meals are prepared quickly, consistently and beautifully
  • We have what we need for service, stock levels are managed closely 
  • New season dishes are designed, tested, costed and planned by you

kitchen

  • Keep your kitchen, storage and work areas clean, organised & super presentable
  • Constantly look to improve kitchen workflow systems
  • Know who produces food for estabar, be ready and able to discuss their intention and produce as often as opportunity presents
  • If something breaks, organise for it to be fixed - ideally before it's totally buggered

team

  • Be a part of your team, help and support and participate as required and as able
  • Develop your kitchen teams' skills, monitor and guide performance
  • Share ideas for improvement across all areas of the cafe

cafe

  • A cafe is a small community, we need you to participate and support that community by getting to know its members, caring for them and serving them well

 

If you’re the one, please email your resume and cover letter to hellobecbowie@gmail.com

Looking forward to meeting you,

Bec

Our Jam Lady is a woman on a mission.

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Our Jam Lady Marylin Ritter is a woman on a mission.  She is busy. 

From sun up to sun down she is plotting
her next jamming or pickling manouver.

Her tomato relish steals the show at estabar and her seasonal jams make a colourful and tasty parade throughout the year.  Strawberry always; Mulberry in Spring; Apricot in Summer; Fig and Macadamia in Autumn and Orange Marmelade in Winter.

I’m trying to remember how we discovered Marylin.  Somewhere along the line someone dropped her name in a discussion about relish.  And I’m glad they did.  It’s not easy to find great relish.  There are plenty on the shelves, but I’ve not found any under flourescant lights that are truly tasty.  I am rarely disappointed by the home-made variety.

And that’s what Marylins is.  She started jamming, pickling and making chutneys and relishes in 1977 using recipes handed down from women in her family.  The impetus for her to begin was a sick child who couldn’t tolerate preservatives in commercial or processed food.

With that compelling experience and a background in pediatric nursing, Marylin has some strong ideas about the impact of preservatives, food colourings and additives on health of our children

Marylin has a cottage garden with fruit trees and vines and a mental map of her neighbourhood and beyond where at just the right time of the year she will find and fleece unattended fruit trees.

We use her Strawberry Jam all year round and then choose a second jam for each season.  In Spring we have Mulberry, in Summer we have Apricot, in Autumn we have Fig and Macadamia and in Winter we have Orange Marmelade. 

Her Tomato Relish steals the show at estabar, bringing us frequently back to Marylins door.  Can we have some more?