MJR TOM is a new addition to the Collingwood food scene. It opened 8 months ago and is an all-day diner. Co-owners and friends Nick Tiktikakis and Harry Tsiaples, were working together at Cafe Paradiso and decided to venture out and open a space that operated exactly according to their taste. We spoke with Nick about MJR TOM’s approach to hospitality and the importance of the staff coming together around a meal.
Major Tom is a reference to David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Bowie was a man who didn’t fit the stereotypical box, just as we don’t fit the typical mold. We’re not just a cafe, restaurant, cocktail or tapas bar. We’re a multi-faceted establishment that evolves throughout the day.
During the day the space fills from the cafe at the front to the back, then in the evenings it fills from the bar at the back to the front. There’s even a billiard table in the basement.
We hired a design firm called Brolly Studios to execute the look of the space. We gave them adjectives and feelings that we wanted to bring to life in the space: warm, inviting, generosity, indoor/outdoor. For instance the materials used inside are traditionally exterior materials: corrugated iron, plywood, exposed brick and lots of plants. We also wanted to show thoughtfulness to the customer by having a power plug and USB port at every table.
The chef Sam spent three years in Spain and refined his art, cooking at some of the top tapas bars. Simplicity, quality ingredients, and sharing are the key elements to his culinary style.
For our staff meal we don’t want to feed our staff crap. Sam and I will have a chat during the evening as to what is going to be served and we often order something special.
It’s not a chore, it’s a pleasure to feed the staff. We put a lot of effort into feeding our customers so why shouldn’t our staff be treated the same?
Tonight we had our staff meal on-the-go, so it was one member of the floor at a time coming through the kitchen to eat and have a quick breather and chat with the cooks.
Typically we come together after service, have a drink and bond over some food. We try not to talk about work but instead ask each other questions. My partner and I are of European descent and our lives are about food and family. Our staff are our family also. We tend to see our colleagues more than our partners or parents, so it’s really important to get our relationship right. This is one of the reason we have been successful at keeping our staff, we haven’t lost a full-timer since the day we opened.