The business faces of Cowra: Jess Burrell

Jess Burrell (front row, centre) with her team from the Breakout Brasserie.
Jess Burrell (front row, centre) with her team from the Breakout Brasserie.

You may question why anyone would want to teach high schoolers and run a busy cafe but it's the best of both worlds for Breakout Brasserie owner Jess Burrell.

What made you decide to take on the Breakout Brasserie and how long have you been in the role?

I have always loved the Breakout Brasserie and we often went there as a family before we bought it in October 2019.

It was pretty typical of a Saturday morning that my younger brother would send a message to our family group chat that just said 'Breakout?' with the smirking smiley emoji and we'd all go out for breakfast.

When it came up for sale, I saw it as an exciting opportunity to continue the traditions that I loved - fresh healthy food, quality coffee, friendly service and homemade baked treats.

You're also a teacher, what made you decide to also get into the hospitality industry?

Yes, I teach English at Cowra High two days a week.

I love teaching and hospitality so it's nice to have a balance of both.

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking.

Mum - who is with me at the café in addition to her nursing job - has always been a great cook, so my siblings and I were pretty spoiled growing up with homecooked meals and baked treats.

I also worked at Neila restaurant as a waitress and kitchenhand.

I started pretty much the day I turned 14 and 9 months and continued there up until the restaurant closed.

It was the most amazing job and work environment and I credit Anna and Jerry for introducing me to lots of new ingredients and flavours and turning me into a full-blown foodie.

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What does a typical day in the cafe look like?

Our mornings start pretty early, setting up the chairs and tables and getting the kitchen organised for service.

I'd like to say I'm there first, but my husband is usually the earliest arrival (5:45am).

My excuse is that he gets to just roll out of bed and shrug on his work clothes whereas I take a few more minutes to look fit for public view.

Our customers start arriving from 6:30 - lots of tradies and early-morning exercise enthusiasts (I wish I could relate!).

These are followed by the breakfast crowd - often tourists, travelling sales reps and some regular locals.

Morning tea time brings in the smoko crowd, mother's groups, book-clubs and exercise groups (special mention to the Tuesday morning yoga ladies).

Lunch is always a mixture of locals and tourists featuring everything from hurried lunch-break takeaways to leisurely catch-ups under the grapevines.

After lunch is clean-up, baking (usually carrot and pumpkin muffins) and the daily grocery shop (I now consider myself friends with the wonderful staff at Woolies, Coles and Aldi)

You've got a great team around you, how valuable are they to the success of the Breakout?

We do have an absolutely amazing team at The Breakout.

We wouldn't exist without their hard work, dedication and attention to detail.

Even on the busiest, most hectic days they soldier on with smiles on their faces and make the cafe a genuinely happy and enjoyable place to be.

From groan-worthy jokes to top-notch coffee/meal-remembering skills and even handmade gifts, the staff at the Breakout has a lot to offer!

Do you have a favourite customer/s or regulars that make your day?

There are too many to mention! We have lots of lovely regulars who share witty banter and entertaining anecdotes over the counter.

In the past two years I've got to know so many people that now feel more like friends than customers - although I am still guilty of forgetting people's names and referring to them by their coffee order ('Good morning, double-shot, oat latte!').

A special mention does have to go to one of our most valued patrons; Lola - Fred Fahey's beautiful boxer dog who always receives the VIP treatment.

How do you come to decide what kind of food/drinks you serve i.e. do you have a particular focus when it comes to the kinds of meals you serve?

We definitely like to focus on really fresh, tasty food that is made from scratch.

I love experimenting with different flavours and ingredients and absolutely believe that healthy food doesn't have to be boring or bland.

I am also passionate about food presentation. I stand by the old adage 'you eat with your eyes first', so I enjoy incorporating lots of fresh, colourful ingredients.

Looking to the future, are there any big plans for the cafe or are you happy with the way things are?

At the moment, we're just really happy that the world seems to be returning to some form of normality and we've hopefully seen the worst of COVID.

It has been an interesting two years and in hindsight not exactly prime-time to buy a hospitality business. We are very grateful to our amazing staff and customers who helped us get through these challenging times.

Finally, can you tell us a couple of things people may not know about you?

That is a good question, but I really don't have an answer. Anything genuinely interesting is either embarrassing or will probably come across as some kind of shameless self-promotion and I'm not a fan of either of those options! I think I'll play politician on that one and refuse to comment haha!

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