“I’ve always been in to baking,” says Yeshe Dawa, owner of The Midnight Baker café. “I remember making butterfly cupcakes with mum when I was little. There was lots of whipped cream and icing sugar involved!” Yeshe’s grandfather, too, was a baker, and she believes her love of all things culinary has been passed down through the family.
Yeshe describes her philosophy as “working to create real, consciously-considered food”, and as working together “to collectively uplift each other and the community”. That location means nearly as much to her as the café itself. “Mount Eden is my hood, so when I saw 218 was available, I jumped at the opportunity,” beams the baker. “Dominion Road has a certain charm to it. It’s run down and full of both character and characters. There’s a diverse community that comes with it too whether it be age or ethnicity. It’s really great getting to engage with people in our area via the café.”
Just like the tucker, the café has an earthy, all-natural vibe, adorned with linen and fresh foliage and decked out with tables of recycled wood. Yeshe tells me the idea was born five years ago from the combination of her “personal struggle with eczema” which led to her going gluten- and dairy-free, and the dearth of quality baked GF items available at the time. So, Yeshe started making her own (usually late at night, hence the name ‘The Midnight Baker’), which proved a huge hit with her friends and former colleagues. After much experimenting, the Freedom Loaf was born: “It’s our core product and the star of our toast menu.”
The menu is mainly centred around healthy breads beneath an array of sweet or savoury hearty toppings: “I like having the peace of mind from knowing that what was going into my food and body would nourish rather than irritate.”
Opening the café, Yeshe adds, was not just her biggest challenge this year but “the hardest struggle” of her life. “Overcoming my pride and accepting help was a huge challenge too,” she adds. “I was incredibly humbled by the people who came forward when I most needed it, who supported me along the way and since we’ve opened.”
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces
Yuletide with Yeshe
What are your earliest Christmas memories?
Among my earliest Christmas memories are making a gingerbread house with my nan and devouring fresh Christmas pudding with cream and homemade custard having collected the sixpences inside to trade for real money.
What will you be eating this Christmas?
Baby potatoes with fresh mint. Plenty of fresh summer salads using greens from mum’s garden. And fresh raspberries with coconut ice-cream—amongst all of the chocolate and desserts.
If you could have anything for Christmas it would be…
Time with my family and loved ones. Sunshine for summer holiday adventures. The mindfulness to enjoy it.