Long before Patti Chimkire started the wildly successful Mali Bakes, she studied business logistics at university in Bangkok.
‘I was always a serious student, and thought that this was the right path for me. After my first job interview, I realised that my heart wasn’t in it and instead was really set on working with food,’ Patti says.
She got her first job at a small cafe in Bangkok called Tinee Eatery Workshop, which had a focus on bringing Melbourne-style food to Bangkok. During a team trip to Melbourne in 2014, Patti fell in love with the city, and moved here to study cookery and patisserie.
After stints working and learning from local businesses like Short Stop Donuts, Humble Rays and Proud Mary, Patti was inspired to start her own business amid Melbourne’s ongoing lockdowns.
‘I got hold of some cake decoration books from the ’60s and ’70s and taught myself how to use different piping tips, and that’s when Mali Bakes Cakes got started,’ Patti says.
This one-woman side project quickly became a fully fledged business, and before long Patti was creating custom cakes for clients in her distinctive style. With the help of her partner Luke, last year Patti upgraded from a home kitchen to a store on High Street, Thornbury, which they completely renovated themselves! Their ‘dream studio’ space now features a cake shop and commercial kitchen at the front, a living space in the middle, with Luke’s art studio and workshop at the rear.
‘At the beginning I was working around 15-16 hours a day, spending long hours in the kitchen and then I would be on my computer replying to emails and inquiries night’ Patti recalls. ‘Now that I have help in the kitchen, it has really been about delegating and streamlining the processes without sacrificing what we are all about, which is making delicious and beautifully decorated cakes!’
Patti takes us through a day in her life, below!
Even though I am not a naturally early person, on the days that I work I get up around 6am. I find that the earlier I start, the clearer my head is.
I have a habit of not having breakfast but do try to drink a big glass of water and take supplements in the morning. A big cup of coffee is always a must too.
I start at 7am. We live behind the shop so it is a very quick commute down the hallway to work for me.
We are open from Tuesday-Saturday. If it’s a Tuesday morning, I start work an hour earlier to finalise all the orders we have for the week and plan out the kitchen production schedule.
When my kitchen assistant Ash turns up at 7am, I brief her about the day ahead. I write down a big list on the white board in the kitchen of all the tasks we have to go through on that particular day. Then I jump on my laptop and spend the first two hours replying to emails and enquires, then send out invoices. I used to do this at night time after I finished in the kitchen but I find morning admin is much more productive.
After that I start baking or decorating orders depending on the day. Decorating is the most time consuming task, I can spend up to an hour on one cake. If I have time, I try to take photos of all the cakes in a little photography studio we set up in the dry store. On Friday and Saturday we will spend a few hours packing orders as it is our busiest day.
I have this particular playlist that I listen to most mornings to get the day going. It is a mix called Chapter#39 by Sasha Marie!
Sometimes I don’t get a chance to have a lunch break until later in the afternoon, or not at all. But when I do, I like to shoot over to Psarakos market and pick up some eggplant dip, salami and gouda to have with cucumber and dolmades which are my favourite! Doing so much physical work in the kitchen I find sitting and having a full lunch can slow me down. I’m always surrounded by sugary and buttery things so I prefer snacking on savouries. This works best to keep my energy going.
The afternoon is all about prepping and getting everything ready for the following day. We assemble orders that are going out the next day, as the cake needs to set in the fridge overnight to be structurally secure.
Because we make everything from scratch in our kitchen, there is lot of work that goes into prepping. Depending on what we need, we might be cutting big batches of fresh strawberries for the filling, roasting pineapples, cooking jams or toasting white chocolate. We also go through huge amounts of buttercream so we make that all the time.
Often on Friday and Saturday, my partner and I will deliver big orders like wedding cakes or tier cakes for events.
Last task of the day is checking stock and ordering supplies that we need. Everything from dry goods, fruits, packaging, and finicky things that we use for decorating.
I aim to finish at 5pm – but that doesn’t always happen. If I have to, I work a bit later.
It may seem strange but after a long day in the kitchen, I find cooking is a great way to unwind. I love putting on some music and having a beer while I cook. I love making Thai dishes because it reminds me of home. One of my favourite things to make is my grandma’s special dish, which is a mince pork slowly cooked with red onion, garlic, fish sauce, lots of fresh juicy tomatoes, and a ridiculous amount of chopped dill. It’s so delicious with a hot steaming bowl of jasmine rice and a squeeze of lime.
If I have time yoga and stretching really helps. We also love catching up with friends over dinner and drinks on the weekend.
I’m naturally a night owl but getting up early is more productive for me. On weekdays I try my best to be in bed by 10.30pm.
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
Listening: Pratt & Moody, Chaos in CBD, Thee Sacred Souls, Juls and Sarah Marie Radio.
Watching: Euphoria, Jeen-Yuhs and The Great British Bake Off!
Reading: Passion Purpose Profit: Fiona Killackey.
I get my best work done when…
I’m happy and focused. When I’m in the kitchen I try to be present with whatever is in front of me and try not to distract myself with over thinking, which often happens when you are running a small business.
My productivity tool/tip is…
Having so much going on with my work, making a list is the number one thing to make sure that I don’t miss out on any tasks. I also create a weekly schedule for myself and delegate time slots throughout each day for certain jobs.
A philosophy I live and work by is…
I don’t really know many philosophies but one that always stuck with me is Amor Fati. The way I understand it is that you choose to see everything that happens in your life, even the bad things as good, or at the very least necessary for you to become better.
Something I’ve learned the hard way is…
You need to push yourself to know your limits but if you push too far, there’s always something that gives out. This is something I learned over the past year; that resting and looking after yourself helps you achieve your goals. You can work as hard as you can, but always know when to stop and rest.