Jan 10, 2021 | Community, Food & Drink

The Moldy Fig – a materialised dream

Author: Luke Ellington

Illustrator: Kattattak Studio

Cajun-creole, jazz music and passion

Segways, the key to good, consistent and engaging storytelling. If you push too hard the reader will notice, if you don’t use them appropriately, the reader will stop reading, and if the storyteller takes a bit too long to find them, it can take the reader into a boring and disengaging conundrum.

This will very likely be the last phrase you’ll read if I don’t find the right segway for this story soon! But how can you make a smooth connection between a Brunswick-based mom and daughter who love cooking and hospitality, a classic Cajun-Creole cookbook, and Jazz music?

Passion. Passion is the link, passion is the common pathway, passion is my segway. 

Geoff, Dorelle, Vivian, and Jemma have been connected to each other and to others through food, music, and a deep passion for making things happen. When Vivian and Jemma were still very young, Dorelle and Geoff ran Mama Rosa’s, an Italian restaurant based in Port Macquire in New South Wales. Back then, they used to have a Diner’s Club every week to introduce an Italian region and its local food to the customers.

Geoff was a very avid reader and one day he brought a Cajun-Creole cookbook from a second-hand book shop. One training night, they introduced some of the book’s recipes to their staff and they absolutely loved it! Having traveled to New Orleans, enjoying Jazz music, and having a Jamaican cook as a friend, it didn’t take too long for Dorelle and Geoff to entertain the idea of opening a restaurant that combined all these elements, but it wasn’t the right time yet.

A Classic Cajun-Creole Cooking Book

The original Cajun-Creole cooking book!

Unfortunately, before it was the right time, Geoff passed on and Dorelle had to make the choice to go to Newcastle where she could raise her two daughters. Mama Rosas closed but she didn’t stop cooking. Instead of cooking at a restaurant, Dorelle started to teach home economics and upskilled other people’s ability to cook! In the meantime, Vivian and Jemma spent their time learning the flavours, the colours, and the magic that a kitchen brings to a home. 

As time went by, Jemma and Dorelle decided to move to Melbourne. Vivian followed her adventurous spirit and traveled to London to learn more about the hospitality industry. Located on opposite sides of the world, Dorelle started to dedicate more time to explore potential places to open a new restaurant in Melbourne while Vivian became part of the opening team of two restaurants in London. By the time they were back together, it became very clear that they had what they needed to start a new project.

A restaurant called “The Paddock” was the initial idea, bringing fresh produce to the table with Australian fusion cuisine. This wasn’t materialised because they lost a potential property’s bid while traveling. “Why don’t you do the New Orleans restaurant, mom? It’s a dream you and dad had, make it come real!” the girls said to Dorelle. New Orleans, Cajun-Creole, and Jazz started to throb louder in the background. 

If this dream came true what could be the most appropriate name for it and where could this restaurant be welcomed in Melbourne?

New Orleans’ melting pot culture offered plenty of stories, legends, and myths to choose a name from. During a trip to Lousiana and after a few Abita Beers in a New Orleans bar, Dorelle and Vivian were told a story about a group of classic jazz players who preferred original improv jazz over the new trends. They called themselves The Figs, but seen as old, dusty, and boring they eventually gained the nickname “The Moldy Figs”. Rather than feeling uncomfortable with it, they embraced their new label and so did Dorelle and Vivian. The Moldy Fig was the name they chose for the restaurant.

Before The Moldy Fig found its home, a brothel called The Pickwood Lodge on Lygon Street in Brunswick was closing down. Emulating the New Orleans scene where eccentric parties, brothels, and talented musicians improv the rhythm of life, The Moldy Fig found its promised land. It was challenging and fun to re-design and adapt the venue. Using their experience, Dorelle and Vivian were able to overcome different challenges like dealing with tough tradies, introducing a new cuisine to Brunswick, and recruiting talented local musicians to play live Jazz with no extra charge for clients!

Vivian and Dorelle - Music, Food and Passion combined

Illustration by Kattattak Studio

Today, The Moldy Fig represents many things. Above all, it holds and materialises the idea of Geoff, Dorelle, Vivian, and Jemma who succeeded in making a dream come true. It is a place where a deep passion for cooking, a classic Cajun-Creole cookbook and Jazz music are combined with a warm atmosphere, an eccentric past and a home-like environment to produce the perfect segway to tell more compelling, entertaining, and engaging stories.

We invite you to find your own segway and live New Orleans passionately right here in Brunswick at The Moldy Fig!

The Moldy Fig

Opening hours: Wed – Sat 5pm till late / Sun midday till 9pm

Address: 120 – 122 Lygon St Brunswick East.

Fun fact: the purple sign by the bar is a readaptation of the letters of its previous name. If you spot it, take a picture and let us know!

Interested in the Cajun-Creole cooking book? Click here.

Are you a Jazz music lover? Vivian recommends you these bands: Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Rebirth Brass Band

To learn more about Brunswick local stories, remember to follow Brunswick Daily on Instagram 🙂

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

It’s about being yourself

Aber – an explosive combination!

Babylon Flowers, one of Sydney Road’s many wonders

Illustrations made by our talented Melbourne-based collaborator Gus from Kattattak Studio.

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