In Today’s blog, we chat with Giorgia, founder of the incredible Mon Forte Viennoiserie located in Melbourne’s North.
When and why did you decide to open your own business?
I have wanted to own my own business since I was about twelve when I knew I wanted to be a chef of some kind, but didn’t yet know in what area. As I began working in the industry as a pastry chef it became clear that that business would be a bakery; initially I wanted to sell cakes before I fell in love with making viennoiserie and I have always loved developing and creating new products. I knew owning my own bakery would allow me to do this more freely.
Where did the name Mon Forte come from?
Monforte is the name of the hamlet in the Lazio region of Italy that my maternal family (the Forte family) originates from and my grandfather Nino Forte owned Forte’s Ice Cream Parlour on Brighton seafront in Sussex, England. I chose the name Monforte as I wanted to honour my family’s history, as it has so strongly influenced my career and personal development.
Tell us a bit about how you get things done in such a small space!
It’s always a bit of a tight squeeze, but we make it work! I have developed the space to work to our benefit whereby production is very much make and bake – we don’t freeze any of our products (we don’t even have a freezer!) and I think this really amplifies the quality of our products as they are sold as fresh as they could possibly be. The small space also requires the team to be able to do every aspect of the job, from baking to production and front of house, which means that all the staff get to see their handiwork from the very start of the process to the moment they hand it to our customers.
Have you always loved making pastries?
I came to viennoiserie quite late in my career at All Are Welcome, where I was given free reign to create as I pleased – the ultimate dream, really! The satisfaction from seeing the end result (and the frustration when things didn’t work out the way you’d hoped) became addictive and I knew that this was what I wanted to keep doing.
What is your favourite product on the Mon Forte menu?
I couldn’t not say the leatherwood honey and sea salt here. Although it feels like an obvious choice for my favourite, it’s just so surprisingly light and is without that cloying sweetness you’d expect. The leatherwood honey has a really floral flavour with the buttery richness from the croissant and the flakes of sea salt there to balance it and pull it back that little bit. I could eat one every day.
What do you believe makes your pastries stand out in comparison to others?
To me so much of it is in the flour and butter we use. The flour is organic and sustainably grown by Wholegrain Milling, and we use cultured butter from LardAss on the Bellarine Peninsula. LardAss make their butter with cream from grass-fed cows. The flavour is rich, vibrant and really shines through in the baked croissants. I also keep looking for ways to improve as I think this is so important when you’re creating. Our latest improvement is to freshly mill the rye grain and malted barley for the croissants which contributes a light nuttiness and beautifully browned crust.
What is your best-selling product?
Again, I’d have to say the leatherwood honey – it’s the product everyone comes back for (sometimes within twenty minutes of eating their first one).
What has been your most rewarding experience in this industry?
Having people enjoy what you do enough that they continue to support the shop and the lifelong dream that’s tied to it is exceptionally rewarding and I remind myself every day to be grateful. I also feel so lucky to have people working for me who love what they do and choose to keep growing their skills and developing with Monforte and myself.
How did Mon Forte go during COVID? Did you have to adapt or change anything? Do you think you will keep any practices in place now that we are (slowly) coming out the other end?
Monforte opened during Melbourne’s Big Lockdown in mid 2020, so we have been lucky in that we didn’t have to adapt as we opened right into the midst of it all. For now we’ll be keeping the status quo with our window service, although we may consider a small amount of pavement seating when the risks drop a little more.
How important is your Vanrooy equipment to the operation of your business?
The equipment Vanrooy has supplied us has made the whole production process so much easier; having opened the shop with a small second hand oven and no proover, to speak of, buying our Salva equipment before we ran headlong into our first summer reduced my stress considerably! I wouldn’t ever go without now, as it’s so easy to use and gives us those reliable products time and again.
What piece of Vanrooy equipment could you not live without?
This would easily be our Salva proover. It fits perfectly in our tiny shop and holds everything we need it to, as well as functioning as a fridge through the day to help ease the never-ending Tetris game we play with prep.
If you could do anything differently, would you?
No – I feel really happy with the way Monforte has gone, and lucky that we are where we are.
Do you have any future plans for Mon Forte?
For the time being Monforte will remain as is – I love the small batch aspect of the business and feel it allows myself and the team room to have fun with improving products and developing new ones, whilst maintaining the quality we are known for. If there is ever a second store, I think I’d like to explore something different such as ice cream, to really tap into that familial history.
What do you think is the key to owning a successful pasticceria?
Enjoying the journey and making sure you love what you’re doing and the products you’re putting out is so much of it, maintaining clarity of vision and knowing that whatever stage you’re at there’s always more to learn. It’s also so important to make sure my team knows how much they are valued as they are such a huge part of our success.
Whether you’re North-side or not, Mon Forte is well worth a visit! You can find them at 585 Canning St, Carlton North.
And don’t forget to check them out on Instagram, too!