Simon Chladil has always loved the village atmosphere of Sawtell, so it was an easy decision to make when he decide to open the doors to his very own café, Kath’s Café, which was named in honour of his late mother, Kathleen White. FOCUS had a chat with Simon, to find out more …
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
The first time I came to Coffs was as a child on family holidays in 1969 and again in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I returned in 1985 and realised it was time to make it permanent. I’ve been here for 33 years.
When and why did you start your business?
I was about to leave for a family wedding in the USA, when I a good friend of mine from another business in the street told me that the café was available. I have always loved the village atmosphere of Sawtell, so it was an easy decision to make. I had less than two weeks to organise the purchase and all the legal requirements, before I left the country. With the help of amazing friends while I was away, who cleaned, painted, installed new lighting and electronics etc., I completed the clean-up and preparation of the premises with the help of my sister and her partner on my return and opened a week later – the last week of November.
Where did the name “Kath’s Café” originate?
Kath’s Café is named in honour of my mother, Kathleen White. Having grown up in a large family in Sydney during the ‘60s and ‘70s, our lives were spent surrounded by friends, cousins and family – this meant regular lively gatherings involving food, avid conversation and music. I loved eating, and Kath was an ardent supporter of my desire to become a chef! It was because of her support in my early years that I persevered in my career, becoming an apprentice chef at The Wentworth Hotel in Sydney.
Often, amusingly, she would state that when I opened my own venue, she would look after the cash register, while I did the cooking! Sadly, Kath passed away far too young, and it was as she was in her last days, I made a promise that, if and when I ever did open my own place, I would name it in her honour! This then, is my ode to my mum. A promise kept!
What training did you undertake, and where was your first job?
After my apprenticeship, I worked at several major hotels and restaurants before moving to the Coffs Coast. I‘ve worked at several restaurants, catering outlets, Pelican Beach Resort, Bonville International Golf Resort, Coffs Harbour Racing Club, and a local motel.
When it comes to creating a seasonal menu, what do you take into consideration?
The theme of the café is very retro, ‘60s/’70s style – including old records as placemats (too scratched to play them). This provides the “burger bar/diner” feel of the café and is the influence for my menus. We offer old fashioned style burgers, snacks, home-made cakes, milkshakes, fresh juices and great coffees. Seasonally I keep with the village and beach theme, while also preferring to source as much produce as I can locally.
What local produce features on the menu at Kath’s Café?
We offer great coffee, and it’s roasted here in the Coffs Coast by Stoka Coffee. Our meats are from a local butcher, and all our fresh fruit and vegetables are from A&D Veges, who source as much as they can from the region (Coffs Coast, Dorrigo etc.).
What is your favourite dish on the menu currently and why?
Our classic Reuben on dark rye reminds me of my many trips to the USA; however, we often have on our specials board my version of Southern Fried Chicken. This always reminds me of Texas, where my youngest brother lives.
When it comes to special events and functions, what range of food and services can you offer?
We will be opening for limited night events starting on Friday 15th February.
Fab Fridays will offer our awesome burgers, along with several dinner meal options and local musicians playing tracks from the ‘40s to the ‘70s. Limited seating will be available, so I recommend calling or emailing us for a reservation.
Where do you source new ideas from?
My memories of the burger bars of my childhood, plus the many American diners I’ve tried – and I either replicate the classic flavours and style, or I put a modern twist to it.
What would you say is the biggest influence on your cooking?
Since a teenager, I have loved Japanese and Asian cookery, because of the purety of flavours and fresh produce. Also, the European styles from my childhood (my father was Czechoslovakian) that I still love to this day and often reproduce both at work and home.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy cooking?
I love trying nationalities that are new to me – South American, African, Mediterranean, Persian, to name a few. I also love to try making many preserves and chutneys of days gone by – or a modern take on them.
Where can we find out more?
Pop in and see us or like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest happenings at Kath’s Café. 2/39 First Avenue, Sawtell. 6638 9429.