Cooking has always been a hobby for me, something I do at home, not something ever done professionally. I once auditioned for Masterchef Australia, got through to the final day of auditions before the final 1000 would be flown to Melbourne. I cooked crispy skin duck breast, with duck fat pan roasted potatoes, with an asian inspired red wine reduction. I practised that dish so much that in the end, with 45 minutes allotted cooking time, I was sipping on the remainders of my red wine while letting my duck rest – still with five minutes to spare.
When they called me and said that unfortunately I didn’t fit in with how they wanted this season’s “mix of contestants” to be, I smiled, nodded, and said I understand. Because I did understand. Waiting around for my heat to start, listening to the other contestants auditioning, I was struck by how little I gave a fuck about the minute details of my dish, or any dish for that matter. One person had spent the night before foraging for mushrooms. In a public park. In the heart of the Brisbane CBD. I was never going to be like that – cooking was a hobby, a passion, not something I realised then that I wanted to pursue as a career.
What all the judges did note however, and what has stuck with me, is how entertaining they found my application letter. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, then that was pretty much how I wrote my application. I took the piss, but I was serious at the same time. While reading over my application he had in front of him during my third and final interview that day, one of the judges remarked how far I would go if I was to instead write about the food industry just like I wrote my application. I knew then I wasn’t in, but those words have stuck with me.
I may not want to cook for a living, but I do make coffee as an occupation. I manage a busy inner-city espresso shop, that turns over a fairly large volume of coffee. I’ve been making coffee ever since I started full time in hospitality, a little over 17 years ago. I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about it, I think that is the wrong word. Rather I have a desire to make coffee to the best of my ability, and that desire has never wavered. In pursuit of fulfilling that desire I have continuously refined my knowledge, technique, and general coffee know-how, each year discovering new facets, areas, and dark corners I can shine a light on and learn more from.
With this idea in mind, it was a revelation discovering Matt Perger’s “Barista Hustle” website and subsequent weekly email newsletter. It felt like a giant leap forward in learning how to make coffee better, outshone only by the opening to the public of his private Slack group, a group made up of coffee professionals from World Barista Champions, renowned home enthusiasts, and industry veterans. Creating a Facebook group only increased the variety of conversations and revelations surrounding making great coffee.
It has been a conversation I have been immensely proud to have been a part of, and help contribute to, and one I hope to continue with here. Both the Slack group and Facebook page are not really conducive to 1500 word essays expanding on my thoughts about coffee, and considering I continue to keep this site running, I feel now is the time to begin contributing again. I’m not saying I know all the answers on how to make great coffee, but I do have over a decade and a half’s worth of experience in standing behind the grinder and pumping out shots. This had led me to a number of views that I hope to express here. I can only hope you find them at the least entertaining, with some interest attached …
I will not be keeping the comment pages open here. Instead, I urge you to join the conversation happening on the Barista Hustle Slack group, sign up to Matt Perger’s Barista Hustle newsletter, and head over to the Barista Hustle Facebook page. I look forward to continuing any conversations further through the Slack group or Facebook page. By way of introduction, my name is Michael Cameron, and I make coffee.