Six local legends adapt to the new normal

Melbourne’s baristas, chefs, dancers, and even zoo keepers have been busy inventing new ways to bring the city to your door during COVID-19 restrictions.

We encourage you to show some love to your favourite local businesses as restrictions continue and many expand their online and take-away offerings.

Here are six passionate local people who have found creative ways to respond to the pandemic, collated by What’s On Melbourne.

1. Michael Underwood, Westwood

In a quiet pocket of West Melbourne, Michael Underwood’s small coffee and wine bar Westwood took an unexpected turn to takeaway during COVID-19.

The small team rearranged its Victorian-era shopfront, conjured a rotating menu and began to stock pantry essentials.

Chef Jacob Muoio has spent time making preserves with ingredients sourced from the nearby Queen Victoria Market, and bottling his sought-after house-made green chilli mustard.

The team began to see new faces coming to Westwood for supplies and takeaway meals, such as steak frites and wine.

‘It seems like lots of people are trying to support as many small businesses as they can, that’s the nicest part,’ Michael said.

2. Justine Felix, Melbourne Zoo

A primate eating lettuce

A local resident at Melbourne Zoo

When chief animal carer Justine Felix isn’t roaming the grounds of Melbourne Zoo in Parkville, she live-streams it from home.

‘We had the giraffes on our TV all day yesterday. It’s reassuring, watching amazing animals do their thing,’ said Justine, who left her job as a banker in her mid-20s to retrain in animal studies.

Justine is not alone in seeking the calm of watching penguins, or a snow leopard raising her cubs. The zoo’s animals-at-home live stream had more than two million views in March.

3. Jarrod Briffa, Kinfolk Cafe

Busy city cafe Kinfolk began producing 500 relief meals a week for vulnerable communities in response to COVID-19.

‘We were trying to think of a way to be useful, to get our people and our commercial kitchens working again,’ said Kinfolk’s Jarrod Briffa.

The cafe also found a way to support its suppliers by selling produce direct to customers through a new online shop, as well as tasty meal kits.

4. Melinda Clarke, Melbourne Map jigsaw puzzle

When Melinda Clarke put in a bulk order for her beautiful Melbourne Map jigsaw puzzle, she thought it would take a year to shift the stock. She didn’t expect to sell out within the month.

‘We’ve never faced such a surge of orders,’ said Melinda. ‘I had no idea that jigsaws would become the new black.’

Melinda, first published the Melbourne Map in 1990 after falling in love with illustrated maps while backpacking and sells her products through retailers like Melbournalia.

5. Dean Grant, Urban Alley Brewery

Faced with the idea of standing down long-time employees, Urban Alley Brewery switched things up. It now makes and sells 100,000 bottles of hand sanitiser each week.

Knowing demand for hand sanitiser was growing, managing director Dean Grant asked the chief brewer to concoct a recipe. Within the month, they had a product in market.

Everyone chipped in: bar staff in the warehouse, chefs doing deliveries. What started as a short-term prospect might even take on a life of its own.

‘We think there’s a high demand for high quality, Australian hand sanitiser. This is a business that we want to be in for 10 years, 20 years.’

6. Antony Hamilton, Chunky Move

Two people smiling

Antony Hamilton and Kristy Ayre
Photo: Gregory Lorenzutti

Chunky Move artistic director Anthony Hamilton and other dance-world luminaries created a series of online dance classes, from contemporary to hip-hop.

‘The soul of our work is about bringing people together and getting them moving,’ said artistic director Antony Hamilton. ‘But artists are fairly used to an adventurous way of thinking.’

‘Humans are reimagining how to exist as social creatures.’

To guarantee a fresh supply of shows on the other side of all this, Chunky Move has also paid choreographers and dancers to keep creating in isolation.

Keep in touch

Things are changing day to day as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.

We’ll keep you up to date with what’s open, what’s new and what’s back with our What’s On newsletter. To get the newsletter delivered to your inbox every Wednesday, visit Subscribe.

To find out more about how we are supporting local businesses during the pandemic, read 1200 local businesses innovate with grants, or find out about our Business Concierge Hotline.