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Carte Crêpes: satiating French cravings on campus

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I was lucky enough to interview the owners of Carte Crêpes, Liz Brumby and Ben Vaughan, who have taken a French staple and modernised it to appeal to a young Melbourne market.

Carte Crêpes is a small (but rapidly growing) crêperie located at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus. The business was the brainchild of two bright, young, University of Melbourne graduates, Ben and Liz, who wanted to ‘Australianise’ a traditional French concept.

A pair of francophiles in Melbourne

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Meet Liz Brumby and Ben Vaughan. The brains, passion, talent and energy behind the charming Carte Crêpes. Ben is a previous Genetics major with a Masters in Business, and Liz is a self-professed media enthusiast and Commerce graduate wanted to start a business by young people for young people.

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In its third year of business, Carte has grown from, well, literally a mobile cart, to a permanent fixture with nine employees; hundreds of loyal customers; an exciting, varied menu; and an environmentally and socially-conscious ethos.

Why crêpes?

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When I asked this question, I expected that the well-travelled couple (yes, a couple who have gone into business together) were inspired by a trip to Paris. But in fact it was a ski holiday to a rather obscure village in the Japanese Alps, which sparked the idea.

“I always knew that crêpes were synonymous with Paris, but it was when we were in Japan and saw them in that particular context that I realised the idea had potential [outside] France. We wanted to take a concept that is very well known and customise it to this specific market and put our own unique, Australian spin on it,” says Ben.

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That they certainly have. Don’t expect your usual suspects from your average crêperie. Choices such as ‘The Lamington’ with dark chocolate, raspberry grappa jam and coconut; ‘The Brûlée’, a fun twist on the classic French dessert with vanilla custard and salted caramel; or their new creation which combines white chocolate and fresh passion fruit, are just a few of the creative selections on the menu.

Going beyond French cuisine

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The crêpes are not only delicious, but all their packaging is biodegradable, they are one of only four businesses within the university who use (proper) free range eggs, they refuse to sell bottled water and only employ students.

“Environmental sustainability, engagement with the student community in Melbourne and using local ingredients all contribute to the central ethos of our business,” says Liz.

Even their furniture is environmentally sustainable.

A French future

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It is incredibly refreshing and impressive that such a young couple has been successful in their venture to combine an innovative approach to business with a sense of environmental and social responsibility.

However this ambitious pair wouldn’t be who they were if they weren’t looking forward and thinking big.

“We do want to grow. It wouldn’t feel complete, or like we had achieved what we had set out to until we can replicate our concept in different markets and environments. To really test it we need to grow. We think it has great potential but we need to know for sure. We want to take the concept to other parts of Melbourne, but in what form we’re not sure,” says Ben.

I hope, for every Melburnian’s sake, that they do grow.

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As a student of the university, and frequent customer of Carte, I often see people looking terribly tormented when they get to the front of the line. It’s that ‘oh my god what am I going to order they all look so good I just can’t choose!’ look.

I have an instant remedy for that anguish: Order two. Or three.

Image credits:
2, 3 & 6 by Penelope Moodie
All others courtesy Carte Crêpes


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