Uforic Food Cafe Torquay


Building a High Performance Small Business Workforce – Disability Doesn’t Matter

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So, this week I did something I have never done before – public speaking.


In my previous life I used to write a lot of speeches – but never deliver one myself. So, when the new Diversity Field Officer Service in conjunction with the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, asked me to speak about building a high performance small business workforce – I decided to push myself and go for it! It’s a topic close to my heart.

It was very genLisa_AJerously received and so I really wanted to post a transcript of what I said. Even if one employer opens their mind more widely to the untapped value of employing people from all different walks of life – then I will be one happy lady! My business mentor and keynote speaker on entrepreneurship, AJ Kulatunga was there to share with me his tips on speaking – and he also videoed the proceedings

So, here is the video – and if you get sick of listening to me rabbit on … you can read the transcript below.

Thanks you to all the organisations involved for having me – and to all the business people in the room who listened despite my obvious nerves:


I think the best way to speak is from the heart and so I want to begin by saying that I have spent much of my life pushing through shyness and fear to achieve my goals. Starting our cafe has been no different.

Tomorrow Uforic Food Cafe celebrates it’s second birthday. To be standing up here, talking about how to build a high performance team, is a great moment for me.

12049316_704234473041618_8089244280171920563_nBefore I achieved my dream of opening my very own cafe, I worked as a journalist for Fairfax, and I also in public relation for local not-for-profit, Karingal.

I am also dyslexic.

I know how it feels to have something hanging over your head – something that puts a lot of road blocks in front of your goals – and how difficult it is to face something other people don’t know how to deal with.

Being the shy person I am, it probably won’t surprise you in the slightest that talking to famous people results in a similar uneasy feeling. But it was one particular famous person I spotted at the Melbourne Fine Food Fair last year – and my determination to build the best team of people behind us – which saw me push my shyness to the back. So, I decided to ask Melbourne restaurateur, and Masterchef judge George Colombaris – what he looks for in staff when building his high-performance team.

His response …


I thought to myself – I am never going to forget that. Attitude is key! Struggling with the simplest things at school, I knew it was my own mind-set and sheer determination that had got me to the position of fulfilling my life-long dream of running my very own cafe. I had no doubt my “mate” George, as I like to call him after just one short conversation, was right!  And so, with that gem of advice on board – the search began.

Let me tell you a little bit about our cafe. My husband Matt and I, with the backing of my dad and brother, who also own a business on the Great Ocean Road – Anglesea Fruitz – opened Uforic Food Cafe in the middle of the Surfcoast Highway at Mount Duneed.11058699_964274223596985_6355762419943221271_n

Immediately we developed a Uforic ethos – a way of thinking – a framework for how we do things. That ethos is to provide excellent comfort food in a relaxing atmosphere. We want to create a space where people feel welcome, at ease – without pretence, but where they walk away feeling happy and cared for with a great experience from food to coffee and service. This is a big reason why I feel the interview process is over-rated – especially in terms of hiring staff in hospitality. My own personal obstacles meant it was really important to be to be open minded about building my own team and who those people may be. Attitude is a very hard quality to gage in an interview. Some people perform really well when interviewed, look awesome on paper – but once you’ve given them the job – they rock up late – don’t have the passion you thought they would and don’t treat your customers or their colleagues the way their resume says they strive to.

I think the best way to see if a potential staff member is right for your team, and for them to decide if your workplace is right for them – is a work trial.

2015-09-29 04.53.54This is how I found James. I was approached by MatchWorks, who assists people with a disability to find mainstream employment. While I had worked at parent organisation Karingal – I hadn’t been through the process of employing someone this way in my own business. James has an interlectual disability and some speech difficulties. We met and I was instantly impressed by his enthusiasm and confidence. We spoke briefly about his previous experience, and what he enjoyed doing – and then we got to work. Watching him rocket through dishes was truly impressive – and you could see he had his methodical way of organising and processing the task before him. I asked him how he felt about customer interaction – and while taking orders and processing money was not his cup of tea – running coffee and food certainly was. It was the moment I saw James with our customers – I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, he was the right person for the job. James didn’t just dump the cutlery next to the customer – he said hello, he had a chat. Even though it was not his job to take orders, if he saw someone at the counter, he didn’t avoid eye-contact and run away – he smiled and said he would find someone else to look after them. James had the job for no other reason then his personality naturally encapsulates our whole ethos. I could have interviewed five people that day – and James may not have been the stand out because he probably wouldn’t have interviewed well. But seeing him at work – in his element – where his attitude and personality could shine through and we could communicate and feel more comfortable was what brought us together. Almost a year on and James is the glue that holds our team together – and he absolutely thrives and takes that responsibility very seriously.

IMG_4366A lot of business owners and team leaders may be worried about managing a person with a disability – about how to accommodate any physical requirements they may have – and how to communicate with a person who may have an interlectual disability. I like to keep in mind that we all have things we excel at, and things we don’t. Counting the till at the end of the night really does my head in – it’s not what I am good at and I have a bookkeeper to keep things in check in that area. I am, however, passionate about food, cooking, menus, customer service and leading a team. I think you allow people to excel with open and honest communication – and giving each individual the opportunity to express what they are great at – and what they need to be great at their job. Building a dynamic and high-functioning team is all about how you communicate, show respect and how you can create an environment to provide the opportunities for staff to excel. Disability when you lead like that, doesn’t matter.11219673_704234703041595_8079316724722235973_n

I think we miss opportunities when building our teams because we haven’t opened our minds to other perspectives and other ways of finding people. I know a lot of very small business owners in particular are probably quite worried about whether they may have enough work or be able to dedicate enough time to employing a person with a disability. But there is so much support available now, and it was knowing I had that support with James that really got me over the line. The diversity field officers who you have the opportunity to interact with this morning – can speak to you one on one about the sorts of people you are looking for in terms of staff. It’s important to be honest when having these conversations – express your worries, your concerns – and what you are looking for in your particular workforce. Sometimes building your team can feel quite overwhelming – but the best thing I ever did was think outside the box and explore avenues and people I may not have otherwise considered – with the condition that they come on board with the right attitude. A lot of people haven’t had a lot of opportunity to spend time with people with disabilities before. BacLinks run a terrific team building and workplace volunteering day called the Workplace Big Day Out. It’s a great vehicle to bring people together who otherwise may never have the opportunity to cross paths and to get involved and have fun alongside people with a disability, with a focus on ability rather than disability. Go to the BacLinks website to find out more about that, I highly recommend it.

IMG_4368At the end of the day, I have, and I know many others, who have spent a lot of time hiding their obstacles to find the right opportunities for themselves. We all have strengths, we all have things we aren’t necessarily good at – and some of us don’t have the benefit of being able to hide our perceived shortcomings.  I wanted to create a workplace where people can be who they really are – and excel. Disability doesn’t matter – what matters is matching the right people with the right jobs. Building a high performance workforce for us is about exploring people with different stories and through these differences, we have an innovative team all with different talents that support our ethos. I hope you take this opportunity to talk to the diversity officers here today about your goals and what people you need to support your business’s ethos. Most of all I hope today has opened your mind to possibilities and people you hadn’t thought of. Thank you.


Celebrating five years of blogging

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It’s incredible to think that five years ago today, I launched a little blog called Uforic Food.

I was a journalist whose creativity was stifled by the fact I barely got to write about the thing I love in life the most – food! All I wanted to do was share my passion for cooking – my recipes, my thoughts, my comfort food!

And now, I sit writing this post, literally feeling Uforic. People coming and going through the doors, the grind of the coffee machine, my husband whipping up soy lattes, mochas and machiatos, Customers are at the counter ordering everything from savoury muffins to bowls of warming soup, pot pies and pieces of mum’s now famous vanilla slice. The blog is no longer just an outlet for my creative food writing – for sharing my food stories. It’s a community, a real-life cafe, created with love and passion. 11058699_964274223596985_6355762419943221271_n

This little blog was just a thought … just an outlet to express myself and to connect with other people on a foodie level. I could never have dreamed to have met in person so many people who have followed my writings over the years – many who have travelled from far and wide to see the real-life Uforic Food Cafe. I never dreamed Uforic Food would morph into a business and an outlet for me to share actual food and coffee with the beautiful communities of Torquay, Geelong and surrounds.

We now hold high teas in and overlooking our rose garden, we serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea six days a week – and we make everything, from sweet to savoury, in our own kitchen, by hand, with love.


Because that’s what Uforic Food is all about – it’s about sharing delicious food, in a relaxing and warm atmosphere, where you feel welcomed and cared for. It’s about being able to take that food home and share with your family – to enjoy during our high teas, dessert nights, or at our fundraising Devonshire teas where we raise money for local community groups and organisations.


What started as a place to write has turned into an amazing career journey. I started my working life as a journalist covering police rounds, council meetings, real estate and featuring writing – to PR and communications for Karingal – a not for profit organisation providing choices to people with a disability. When given the opportunity to enter our family business with my dad and brother who own a fruit, vegetable and gourmet food shop in Anglesea called Anglesea Fruitz Provedore – it was a dream come true!

In terms of running a cafe – all I had was my high school hospitality training where I had worked under various chefs thinking it was the career I wanted. But from working out where to order food, to menu planning, and not to mention running a business – I had no idea what I was doing. Most people probably thought we were actually crazy. All I had was my vision, my dream of what I wanted the cafe to represent, and how I wanted our customers to feel when they were there. When my husband Matt, who also has no cafe experience – and I picked up the keys to our cafe – our lessons truly began. We underwent training with one of Melbourne’s best baristas at night, on our own coffee machine. We brought bags of the local coffee beans we love, the boutique milk we wanted to use – and we practiced. I can’t tell you how many kilos of coffee went through the grinder, how many litres upon litres of milk went down the sink – but we did not stop until we loved our own coffee. We tested the flavours and techniques on our families, friends and neighbours – we made them score and critique until we finally felt confident enough to open the doors to my dream. I say my dream because Matt never imagined himself working in, let alone running a cafe. But there he was, by my side – giving it a red hot go.


And that’s not to mention the food side of things. While I loved food and had some training – I have only ever been a very good home-cook. So, with no money to employ a full-time chef (and not much of an idea of where to find a good one) – it was without a doubt in my mind that I would be cooking the food, I practiced, tested and critiqued every dish. I made them over and over again practicing everything from poaching eggs to trialing plating up methods. I used to tell anyone who would listen that while I rocked at savoury – I was not a baker. Today, after a lot of hard work. trial and error and pure determination – my mum and I now make all our cakes and sweets by hand each week. I can finally bake! We have been learning everything for the first time – and all with our vision to create “uforic” food and coffee for our customers. To provide warm, friendly, helpful, welcoming and attentive customer service, which we always found so hard to find.

Lisa Mary Cummins - Uforic Food Cafe Torquay. Picture courtesy Kari Teagan Photography

Lisa Mary Cummins – Uforic Food Cafe Torquay. Picture courtesy Kari Teagan Photography

This little blog, which turned into a real-life cafe – into our dream – has been anything but a dream run. Three months of roadworks, which began a week after we opened the doors and saw the Surfcoast Highway out the front of our cafe all but completely closed down – almost crippled us before we had even had the chance to truly begin. We were broken in to, which resulted in us having to throw away every morsel of food in the cafe. There have been too many trials and tribulations to list. That’s not to mention working seven days a week straight, often with no breaks for weeks on end – the pure mental and physical exhaustion of it all cannot be explained.


But, as I look up at our baby – our cafe dream – as we lock the doors each night after sweeping, mopping scrubbing and dishes and often long after the surrounding garden centre business owners have left – Matt and I both feel so proud. Within our first six months we were nominated for the 2014 Golden Plate Awards – and were announced as a finalist – finishing third in the Best Unlicened Cafe section. We came up against some of the regions very best cafes – and other than the love we have appreciated from our customers – it was the judges encouragement and wonderful feedback that kept us pushing forward: For their review, visit the Golden Plate Awards site. We have been nominated again in 2015 – so very exciting for a cafe that is still just 18 months old.

Matt and Lisa Cummins - Uforic Food Cafe Owners

So, today it’s been incredible to look back at what this little blog I started 5 years ago has morphed in to. From the online world to a real-life cafe where I am the cook, my husband the barista and we continue to build our little community of Uforic Food lovers – both online and in real life. For us, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Come and eat scones for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

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First of all, let me say a big welcome to all our new blog followers … and hello again to all of you who have followed for a long time. I’m sorry I haven’t written in quite a while – but running a real-life cafe takes up pretty much 100% of my time.

For those of you who are customers of our cafe … and are experiencing us via the blog for the first time – welcome to the online world of Uforic Food! If you want to read about how this little online blog turned into a real life cafe at the Surfcoast Highway Garden Centre near Torquay – feel free to track back and read the story here.

What has inspired me to pop back is to a. tell you about a new and very exciting community fundraising initiative we are starting – and b. to also share with you a favourite recipe of mine for wholemeal date scones – they are absolutely delicious!

We have been so thankful for the Torquay, Geelong and surrounding community’s support since we opened, that I wanted to think of a way to give back to the wonderful people we have come to know and love. So, we thought, why not hold a monthly Devonshire Tea – to raise money for a group, charity or not-for-profit organisation.

So, we’ll be running this awesome event on the last Wednesday of every month.

Our first event will be on Wednesday June 24 @ 9.30am for the Cancer Council’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.community fundraiser promo - June 2015 - Cancer Council Biggest Morning Tea


We hope you’ll join us!

But, in the meantime – here’s a ripper recipe for wholemeal date scones.

They aren’t hugely fluffy – but light enough and they have a nutty taste, thanks to the wholemeal flour. There was a suggestion to substitute a ricotta and honey mix rather than jam and cream. I tried. I wasn’t a fan – at all! So, I did have jam and cream. And, they were yum!

These also feature cinnamon – great for your digestion – and for filling your house with that amazing fragrance you only get from this delicious spice!

Wholemeal Date Scones

  • 2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 30g of reduced salt butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup skim milk, plus extra for brushing
  • Your favourite jam and some whipped cream to serve


Preheat your oven to 200 degrees

On a large mixing bowl combine cinnamon and flour. Chop cold butter into cubes, add to flour and rub in with your fingers until it looks kind of sandy.

Stir in dates. make a well in the middle of the flur mix and add the milk.

Then, use a butter knife (this is important!!) to gently combine the mixture.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to gently bring the dough together. Don’t knead it – the scones will go tough!

Pat out with you hands to a 3cm thickness. Use a floured scone cutter, cut 12 rounds from the dough, place onto a baking paper lined tray and brush with a little extra milk.

Bake at 200 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Serve this jam, cream and a pot of tea! They do go a bit hard, but I found these nice to munch on, just as they are, the next day.

Bookings required. Phone 5264 1717 to secure your spot or fill in the form below

Want us to raise funds for your group, charity, or not-for-profit organisation? Contact me – lisamary@uforicfood.com 

Let us know about your favourite scone recipes in the comments section below, or via our Facebook page 

It’s great to be be back on the blog again. I look forward to sharing with you our latest foodie news and lots of great recipes on a weekly basis moving forward.

Until then … enjoy~

XO Lisa

Almost a year on … and it’s time to grow!

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It been almost a year since we turned what started as a blog in the online world – into a real life cafe just out of Torquay, Australia – at the start of the Great Ocean Road.

From the day we opened the doors, I have cooked almost every meal that has left the kitchen. I have had an absolute blast sharing my love for food and cooking with our local and growing customer base. And, while it’s been amazing and I have learnt so much – now is the time for us to grow!

Uforic Food Cafe Torquay Great Ocean Road

We have a super exciting opportunity for a chef to join our team. 

You will be passionate about food and cooking, and looking to gain experience to take your career to the next level! Our Golden Plate Award nominated, family owned and run cafe offers a fun and supportive working environment and the opportunity for you to express your creativity and ideas,

Our open kitchen means you will have customer contact and enjoy the experience of providing them with awesome service.

Food is uforic when it is made with love, the flavours just work and it brings people together in a warm and relaxing atmosphere. Whoever joins our kitchen will hold these values true and work with us to keep growing our dream of sharing the Uforic ethos with many more people in the future.

This spells exciting times and Matty and I can’t wait for the Spring, Summer and what the future holds for this exciting little business of ours! While I won’t be in the kitchen as much (although I’ll never fully stop cooking) I will be up the front, meeting and greeting and serving our wonderful customers making sure you are all happy, relaxed and looked after. I try to get out and do this as much as possible now – but this is where my focus needs to be. Matty, of course, will remain on the coffee, where we like him 🙂

This is a full-time position and we encourage apprentices and cooks to apply. For more information about the role, and the exciting projects we have in store, or to apply – email lisamary@uforicfood.com or to chat phone 5264 1717 and ask for Owner/Chef Lisa Cummins. Applications close at 5pm September 26.

There are so many exciting projects coming up at Uforic Food Cafe and we can;t wait to share them with you! More recipes and food stories to come soon.