The Man Behind Collective Espresso's Oreo Showtime Gravity Cake
30 April, 2020
Melbourne’s chefs hale from many pockets of the world. Their heritages and experiences can wildly differ, but one commonality is enduring, they all start in the same place, the wash room. Jose Chavez is no different, except the mound of dishes he accepted as the initial step in a chef’s natural path of progression, was in a dimly lit backroom of a restaurant of his birth-country of El Salvador.
His move to Australia came at age 19. Melbourne was the initial destination of a new frontier, but the sun and sand of the Whitsundays was where he “decided to take cooking seriously, and life generally”. His formal qualification as a chef came at 23 years old, at which point he was fulfilling the demands of fine-dining cheffing in a renowned Melbourne establishment. Jose’s first role as a head chef was to be at the Stones of the Yarra Valley winery, for which the demands were rigorous but rewarding, and ultimately became at odds with his shifting priorities as a family man. Melbourne’s café scene was more workable, and Jose spent five years as the Executive Chef of a hospitality group which claimed ownership of prominent establishments; Short Straw, Turning Point Ripponlea and Collective Espresso, amongst others, and has since moved into a consultancy position with the group.
“There needs to be excitement when the plates hit the table. WOW factor is essential”
His current duties encompass menu design, and for Collective Espresso this is to deliver a menu set which is “quirky, trendy and vibrant. There needs to be excitement when the plates hit the table. WOW factor is essential, but of course backed with flavour.” The Collective Espresso signature, The ‘Oreo Showtime Gravity Cake’ ticks the boxes. The menu listing is an ‘Oreo Pancake with a Mini Oreo Popcorn Bucket, Strawberries and Cream, Rhubarb Compote, Banana Crumble and Whipped Vanilla Ice Cream’ but the illusion of the popcorn pour is the visual allurement that draws the social media clicks, and brings the weekend cross-city travellers. Jose borrowed the idea of the ‘gravity pour’ from his hobby-baking wife, “I saw it, loved it and set about making it work in a Melbourne Café environment.” This iteration came in the form of the ‘Gravity Waffles’, later amended to the Oreo pancake. A fleeting absence from the menu triggered an inundation of requests for it to be brought back, and since its reinstatement it has assumed the status as the Collective Espresso signature dish, and is unlikely to be dethroned any time soon.
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