Kim and Jamie Broomhall met in a cafe two doors up from the one they now own. ‘It all started over a Milo,’ laughs Kim.
The Amble Inn Cafe, at the bottom of Deloraine’s busy high street, has been there since the late 1800s and is very much a community fixture. ‘Jamie’s nan used to come here for tea and scones,’ says Kim. ‘People love finding that there is still a café here and that gives me a buzz because I think we’re a part of something bigger.’
The pair both grew up on farms in close knit communities in the north of Tasmania, and are self-taught cooks. Jamie’s mother ran a café, while Kim grew up in the kitchen with her mother. ‘Mum wanted me to have a more stable career in administration,’ says Kim, ‘so I did nine years with Meander Valley council, and sat in a cubicle.’ The cubicle couldn’t contain her though. Soon she had taken a wage drop and was driving a truck and baling hay with her brother for local farmers who couldn’t manage it themselves.
Only when she and Jamie began running the Amble Inn together did they really find their feet. There’s a palpable sense around Kim that the café is both a meeting place and a laboratory for a bigger enterprise. ‘I’ve always made jams and relishes, originally for our older generation who couldn’t do it for themselves anymore.’ Harvesting fruit from local gardens, Kim has built up a delicious sideline of such delights as Wicked Worcestershire Sauce, Orange Pear and Passionfruit Jam, and Orchard Bliss created for her brother’s wedding from pears in the orchard where he married. Those who have tasted often buy in bulk. ‘I’ve got a lady who buys two dozen of my mint jelly at a time and a lot of people stock up on a year’s supply at the Craft Fair.’
The jams and preserves are all free from artificial additives, and made with spray free fruit often sourced from local gardeners. ‘A lot of the time it’s through talking to someone. A lady the other day asked if I would like some pears, she has a whole tree which will be ready in April and she just wants a few pots of jam out of it.’
The greater value in this is for the grower. Kim’s father-in-law grew an astonishing one hundred and fifty jam melons for her in 2015 in his garden at Port Sorell. ‘It’s a way to keep him active and look after his mental health. He’s by himself, but he’s got a lot of knowledge and a fantastic garden. He’s just dropped off two crates of beetroot for me.’ We tend to write off older people, says Kim, and it’s wrong.
Having a home-grown, home-made quality is a vital part of the product and brand for Kim, who says she just wants to provide proper food for people. ‘If a relish is a bit runny, it’s because that’s the way that batch ran. If it’s a different colour to the last one, that’s because the fresh tomatoes were just so red and juicy, it darkened the batch.’ Commercial production of foodstuffs which always look exactly the same has changed consumers’ expectations, she believes. ‘A lot of people don’t understand this unless you tell them.’
Kim’s speciality is Christmas Pudding, made to a fourth generation recipe originating with her father’s grandmother and not given to her until she had been ‘married for a few years’. Each woman whose hands it has passed through has tweaked it a little, adding sherry or brandy, taking out the peel or adding extra cherries. The pudding is moist and delicious with all the soft fruity flavours of a home-made one. ‘I use as many free range eggs as I can because that makes such a difference to the taste,’ says Kim.
Food has a particular way of resonating with people, and every so often in a business of this sort comes an occasion which reminds you why you’re doing it. For Kim that was a call she received late on Christmas Day this year, from a customer who had lost his mother unexpectedly. He had bought one of Kim’s puddings because it was so like the one his mother always made, and he was phoning to tell her what a moving experience it had been to share it with his family on Christmas day.
It’s this capacity to touch people which is the real motivator for Kim. Every Friday she hosts a group from the local aged care facility at the café for lunch. She knows which of her customers need a lift home and who’s recently bereaved. It’s not just a food business – it’s an extended family.
Which is why she’s been delighted to have struck up a relationship with Hill Street Grocer in Latrobe, whose customer service ethos and community links are so well aligned with those she and Jamie espouse. Manager Steve Longmore taste tested her products at the 2015 Tasmanian Craft Fair at Deloraine. ‘He started sampling the puddings and just kept eating it!’ Kim laughs. Now he’s placed an order for two thousand for next Christmas, and is stocking range of Kosie Country Made jams and preserves.
This step into wholesale was always part of the plan for Kim and Jamie, who will build a commercial kitchen and climate controlled storeroom for production at their home ‘very soon’. Production of over six hundred puddings this past year was already a military style logistical exercise. Kim makes premixes of the dry ingredients before combining them with the wet and cooking in strictly controlled batches and sizes of up to eighty a day. ‘I have this system and it’s rolling around in my head all the time, Jamie doesn’t dare ask me about it.’
It’s a big year for Kim, with knee surgery scheduled for March, the new kitchen build, an online shop launching in mid-February and the increases in production that this means – and all this with two young children. How does she find the time to do everything, I wonder? ‘A lot of people ask me that,’ she laughs. ‘I guess I don’t need a lot of sleep, and also Mum and Dad just brought us up to believe that time was something you didn’t waste.’
You can find Kim’s products on the shelves at the Hill Street Grocer in Latrobe, at the Amble Inn on Emu Bay Road in Deloraine, at the Tasmanian Craft Fair in November 2016 and at Tasmania’s Fine Food Awards in Hobart in July. You’ll find Kim herself on her stall and at the café, urging you to take a taste of her Apple Sauce or Mint Jelly. It’s hard to say no to this delicious product and its infectiously good-willed maker.