The Centre for Stories is located in one of the most eclectic and exciting suburbs in Western Australia: Northbridge. Before this little town was ‘Northbridge’, it was ‘North of the Bridge’, or ‘North of the Line’, and before that, it was, and will always be, Wadjuk Noongar land.
We’re always on the hunt for a good story, and what better place to look than in our own neighbourhood. Our awesome intern, Alecia White, spent some time interviewing the manager of one of our favourite coffee shops in town, Ali, from French Resistance Patisserie on Newcastle Street. What better way to get to know our neighbours!
Could you tell us about yourself?
My name is Ali, I am the manager of the French Résistance Café in Northbridge. We’ve been open for nearly three months. I’ve been in the industry for over ten years and at one stage, Eric—the owner and baker—and I had five cafés. So yeah, having a small one is awesome, and I love it.
Tell us about the café, what’s so great about working here?
First of all, it’s fantastic because it’s all authentic, it’s handmade with lots of love and passion. A bonus for me, it’s a takeaway only so I don’t have all the cleaning up that I used to do. I wanted to create a little space in the community that everyone comes to and everybody enjoys being at with the best French food eve—and awesome coffee. So I think yeah, in three months we’ve achieved quite a lot, its been great.
What has working in hospitality taught you?
It’s taught me to be patient. It’s taught me to be understanding. Before that, I used to be a primary school teacher, so I had a lot of that already, I suppose. It’s an interesting industry because you meet lots of different people. You have to also realise you don’t know where those people have come from—what’s going on in their lives—so, you have to be a really, sort of a positive person. You have to be open-minded and you do have to be very, very patient with some customers.
Northbridge is a pretty eclectic place. What kinds of customers do you get?
We get an awesome group. I love Northbridge because we used to have places in Nedlands and it’s a totally different sort of setup. You just get such an eclectic mix of people, you’ve got workers, business people, beautiful young families, you’ve got young people, you’ve got an awesome group of gay people around here, you’ve got the homeless—it’s just a very humbling experience. There’s lots of really great people and I think we’re very, very fortunate to be living in this country and we’re very fortunate to be where we are at the moment.
When you’re not slaying the coffee game, what do you do?
What do I do in my free time? What free time? I’ve got two kids, that keeps me busy. I enjoy drinking a red wine with a few friends. Family and really close friends are really important to me so whatever free time I have is focused on that really. Doing six days a week here and the day off, yeah, it’s household and friends. Yeah, I love it, I absolutely love it.
Could you explain where the name French Résistance came from?
Eric, who’s the baker, he is originally from Paris and I first met him when our kids were at school together. He had a business called La Galette, and when he decided to do this he contacted me again and he wanted to call it French Résistance. When I sort of thought about that I laughed. But then his concept around it is, the French side is an authentic, handmade, traditional method. We are resisting the temptation to use the modern-day method and shortcuts, which he finds really, really frustrating. Eric wanted to be known for the real, traditional French method and resisting the temptation of people who cut corners. Everything is made by hand, literally. It does make a big difference and he’s very passionate and cares about what he does.
When we had all our businesses together, it was pretty wild really—because I’m very passionate, I’m very determined, I’m a perfectionist, I’m a control freak, and so is he. We’ve clashed a bit at times, but we got on well and I guess that’s why this works. I do all of the [management] and he does the baking side—he’s taught me how to bake, I love it. He’s one awesome man.
He’s a very humble, caring person. We do a lot for the homeless as well. We donate quite a bit down to Ruah—which is the homeless shelter there—and during the school holidays, his son and his son’s friend, make quiche and roast vegetable baguettes, and they drop them off every Monday. We donated a whole load of stuff for their Christmas party, but I think that’s important because, as I said before, we’re very fortunate to be in this position.
So you’ve become a part of the community quite quickly in Northbridge?
Yeah, but that’s what it was like with all our other places. It was important to establish a little hub that everyone feels comfortable in. I don’t judge anyone and I think in this day and age you have to be accepting for everybody. You don’t know what’s happened in their life. With staff and everything, we’re very fortunate that we’ve got staff who are great, they really are. It’s lots of fun—some days its exhausting—but like you guys, seeing the same faces again and having a natter, you become part of people’s lives. I love that. I mean, we’ve already had two births in the three months that we’ve been here, so it’s like—yay! So it’s great, yeah, it’s lots of fun.
So what’s your sleep schedule like?
For me, I’m up at four-thirty and I’m here just after five but for Eric, and the bakers, the first shift starts at twelve, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday their shifts start at eleven. Generally, they’re doing ten hour-plus shifts. Eric, he’s doing at least a hundred hours a week.
How are you still standing?
I don’t know, you just do it. But honestly, when I first started the first business with Eric in Nedlands, I was teaching two days a week. You know, you look back and you think, ‘I set up the shop, make sure the staff are sorted, go home, change into teaching gear, feed my kids, take my kids to school, teach all day, come home’—I don’t know, you just do it. But I love it and I’m the sort of person that has to be busy anyway. It’s not my thing to sit around and do nothing. But I do enjoy getting home and just sitting in the garden for, you know, an hour with my feet up and having a cup of tea and then the mum-mode kicks in and off you go.
This interview was collected in December 2018 by Year 10 intern, Alecia White.