06/05/2010 - 00:00

Backyard barista finds his passion

06/05/2010 - 00:00


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Challenged by his father in his early 20s to find his passion, Cimbalino owner Steve Kenyon set out to become a barista seven years ago.

Backyard barista finds his passion

STEVE Kenyon did the rounds of Perth’s best cafes for six months offering to work as a kitchen hand in return for being taught to work the coffee machines; but after being knocked back more times than he cares to remember he bought his own machine, backed his father’s car out of the garage, and set up shop in the shed.

Mr Kenyon then hired a barista to run him through the ins and outs of coffee making, doing a two-week ‘course’ in the garage, ploughing through 90 kilograms of coffee beans every week as he sought the secrets to the perfect cino.

In 2004, he bought his first coffee shop in Dalkeith with funds saved for a university degree, entering in to a business partnership with his father. Kenyon the younger ran Cimbalino while his father managed the books.

Mr Kenyon says the cafĂ©’s location was chosen because of the lack of local competition.

“We used to have to drive 15 minutes to get a decent coffee because there was nothing around. The coffee in Cottesloe was rubbish, coffee in Claremont was rubbish, Subiaco probably had some of the best at the time but we had to drive all the way there and all the way home to get a decent one,” Mr Kenyon told Gusto.

“I thought if there is nothing between there and Freo, why wouldn’t it work?”

But Mr Kenyon wasn’t just going to go anywhere in the western suburbs, it had to be on the river side of Stirling Highway – and for good reason.

“I figured if you stayed on that side of the highway people didn’t have to get dressed [for the work day]. If they had to go on the other side of the highway then they may as well go to Claremont and then they’re going to get dressed,” Mr Kenyon says.

“I wanted it to be like a second home, an established feel, worn in, like an old shoe.

“We didn’t polish the floor, everything was second hand. People like that, they bring their dogs and have a coffee,” Mr Kenyon says of what he calls the original “organic” Cimbalino.

He sold the Dalkeith store 16 months ago and while it still exists under the Cimbalino brand, Mr Kenyon says it is not a franchise.

“They wanted to keep the name and they paid for it, but it is not a franchise, it is a supply agreement,” Mr Kenyon says.

The second Cimbalino, now better known as Mount Street’s La Bouchard restaurant, was built on the same ‘organic’ premise as Dalkeith.

But when he built the third store in Cottesloe, and the newest addition in the enex100 retail arcade in the city, Mr Kenyon’s organic style fell in favour of a formula that would challenge local competition and aid speed and quality.

“When we went to Cottesloe, we were number seven on the street so you had to up your game a bit. It is a slicker strip, so I had to build a slicker store,” Mr Kenyon says. “It has to be a well-oiled machine.

“We make 80 per cent of our cash over two and a half square metres; that is the most valuable space in the store.

“You have to make as many as you can, as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. The only way you are going to do that is with the perfect coffee zone.”

He is confident in his “ultimate coffee zone” and says its design makes it easy to replicate – a factor he believes will aid in the development of Cimbalino.

Seven years after perfecting his cappuccinos in the garage, Mr Kenyon has found his passion – and there is no looking back.

He has been approached to open stores in Singapore, New York and Milan, but plans to stick to Perth.




Subscription Options