With bright orange signage and a central spot on Somerville’s main shopping strip, it’s hard to miss Café 100 Mile Foodie. From the outside, it’s a neat little café serving up quality coffee, sweet treats and tasty takeaway fare. On the inside, it’s a unique community hub providing those living with a disability with paid, supported employment.
Owner Marlene Hoff first launched 100 Mile Foodie in 2013 as a way of encouraging others to reduce their food miles and eat more sustainably. As a chef and hospitality trainer, Marlene was keen to support local farmers by offering catering and cooking classes celebrating Mornington Peninsula produce. She’d heard that the average grocery shop travelled over 70,000 miles, and set herself the challenge of sourcing as much as possible within 100 miles of her home in Somerville.
The business quickly expanded to include gourmet hampers and a commercially-certified cooking school run from Marlene’s home kitchen. In 2018, she began working with clients living with a disability, teaching them independent living skills and running social groups that centred around a shared love of food. The classes proved popular, and the cooking school soon moved to a larger facility in Somerville, with a swish new setup to cater for up to 12 students.
When a nearby shopfront came up for sale in 2021, Marlene saw it an opportunity to further support her clients by providing a safe and inclusive work environment. The purpose-built café enables them to learn and develop new skills in hospitality, from coffee-making and food handling to customer service.
A custom-made coffee machine brews locally-roasted beans from Little Rebel Coffee Roastery, who also provide staff with ongoing barista training. Unlike many businesses offering similar work experience, here the staff are supported and compensated for their time.
Head to the counter, and you’ll find a well-stocked sweets cabinet housing all manner of goodies, from delicate lemon meringue tarts to a decadent Dutch butter cake that's made in-house. There's also an entire shelf dedicated to gluten-free treats, including vanilla slice, salted caramel cookie sandwiches and the ever-popular raspberry brownies.
For lunch, try the pie of the day (which will set you back $6), or perhaps a goat’s cheese tart from Johnny Ripe, served with homemade relish and salad. Toasties and focaccias are made daily with Baker Boys bread, and the drinks fridge is filled with Peninsula Cold Pressed Juices, Three Bays Mineral Waters and Eddies Ciders from Red Hill.
Whether you’re ducking in for a quick bite or grabbing a coffee to takeaway, the service is warm and welcoming, and the staff are always up for a chat. There's even a ‘Chatty Table’ out front, which encourages customers to combat social isolation by sitting down and connecting with a stranger over a cuppa, as well as regular themed high teas that bring people together over scones and jam. It's all about getting out there, socialising, and building connections with good food and good company.
For those looking for local catering that won’t cost the planet, the team at 100 Mile Foodie Catering provide tailored, sustainably-sourced menus for up to 100. There’s also public and private cooking classes available, for those looking to improve their skills in the kitchen.