Mabu Mabu is one of Melbourne’s hottest cafes on Anderson Street in Yarraville and as part of NAIDOC Week in July is being celebrated by the West Gate Tunnel Project.
Nornie Bero, the foodie genius behind Mabu Mabu, chatted to the West Gate Tunnel Project for NAIDOC Week and outlined her love for Melbourne’s west and its community, with the chef explaining, “Being part of the west Melbourne community is a highlight for me, being able to flourish in this area has been one of the best choices I have made.”
Opening up a mere four months before COVID-19 changed the hospitality scene last year, Nornie quickly pivoted the café to offer takeaway, as well as sell some of the crowd favourite products, like teas, hot sauces and damper maker kits online and in other stores, with her product range now offered at more than 40 stores.
“When COVID hit last year, I had just started my business and was wondering what I was going to do. But I said to myself ‘COVID is not stopping my business, I’ll do anything to make it work.’ I quickly created more product lines, moved to wholesale, created a webstore and all this success meant I was able to keep my staff,” said Nornie.
Another key takeaway for Nornie from COVID was observing Melbourne’s appreciation for their local areas, with the five-kilometre bubble meaning that only Melbourne’s westies could indulge in her food and products during the peak lockdown period in 2020.
Thanking the locals who continued to visit her and ensure her continued success during the depths of lockdown last year, Nornie commented, “COVID has taught everyone to go to their local High Streets and visit small businesses that they may never have gone to otherwise.”
As well as spruiking the delicious dishes and native ingredients of her home of Mer Island in the Torres Strait, Nornie is passionate about supporting women and people of colour through employment opportunities with her business.
She enthused, “Opening a business that is able to hire both people of colour and women and give them key positions in my business is a real highlight for me.
“I grew up in the hospitality industry and wanted to make a difference in a special way, which I get to do by putting my cultural background on the map, showing how amazing Torres Strait Islanders are and creating a supportive workplace for women and people of colour.”
With her next venture – called Mabu Mabu Big Esso – in Federation Square in the works, it’s clear that COVID has not dampened Nornie’s vision for Indigenous food to be incorporated across Melbourne’s culinary landscape.
“I do something new every six months, nothing, not even COVID, will stop me from doing what I’m doing. We are opening up a bar in Fed Square, with more Indigenous food, as well as serving alcohol that focuses on native produce and making them the hero. We’re doing something extremely different, so Mabu Mabu isn’t the last you’ll see of us!”
For more information or to shop Mabu Mabu’s signature products, visit https://www.mabumabu.com.au