Balwyn Canteen Part I: A Modern Take on an Old-School Vibe

20 May, 2020

Balwyn Canteen was born in October 2018. DJ and Adela Richard envisioned a donut focused shop and brand, complimented by burgers, shakes and other sweets capable of drawing non-Eastern-suburbs locals. DJ, head chef and owner says of his space, “it is a modern take on the old school vibe. We have taken parts of the American diner, and turned it into a milk bar concept. A tribute to our favourite childhood memories.”  Balwyn Canteen is the specialist of being a generalist. A master of all trades, for which the draw card is likely to differ depending on who you ask. Balwyn Canteen is not immune to the challenges of maintaining the quality and polish across an extensive menu, but DJ and Adela work assiduously to consistently meet the lofty standards they have set for themselves. 

Melbournians do not visit Balwyn Canteen for a calorie-sparing experience. Indulgence is often the intent, but premium quality ingredients and preparation remains a non-negotiable, “I wanted to provide a quality product, but also offer value. It must be great tasting food that doesn’t make you feel unwell hours later, no matter how much of it is consumed. Basically, I keep highly processed foods and preservatives off the menu.”

as long as it is something we like the taste of, or something we believe make some magic of

"The menu has always been in perpetual evolution. The existence of each release is transient, and very much at the mercy of DJ’s restless spontaneity. In the backdrop, there is always something under trial, “I like to test everything and see the feedback before it is put on the menu. American or Aussie, as long as it is something we like the taste of, or something we believe make some magic of.” But, being innovative is difficult when almost everything has been done before, and the key is to fuse and adapt, “we see what is trending and make our own versions of it. A lot of ideas flow and we go with it. Social media helps, we look at what influencers are discussing, and we read comments and use our creativity to do what is called ‘flavour bouncing’. But, I still read a lot, and my house is full of old cookbooks and magazines which I try to reinvent from.”

the benefit of doing things in house. You can make things any size that you want

DJ is known to have an inclination for the theatrical. On one occasion, for little other reason than personal amusement, he compiled a stack of 50 donuts and moved them onto a table on shopfront foot-path, covered it in 3 kilograms of Nutella and propositioned passing pedestrians with the offer to ‘face-plant’ it. 5 kilogram donuts are a regular feature at Balwyn Canteen, “we have done a lot of crazy specials, which are often larger version of the regular specials. That is the benefit of doing things in house. You can make things any size that you want. We did a 50 piece chicken and 25 original glaze donut stack with maple syrup. That was epic.”

In Balwyn Canteen Part II: Didier Richard, The Value of a Chef we feature the Head Chef, owner and operator of Balwyn Canteen, DJ, who speaks of his love for hospitality, cooking and baking. He provides some insight into what defines the value of a chef, and the importance of well-directed passion and talent in the field of hospitality during the times of industry instability brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Balwyn Canteen


262 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn

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