In a recent post about The Old Schoolhouse, Milton NSW, I mentioned Milkhaus Wholefoods Canteen. Milkhaus is located a few minutes drive from main street Milton, in the old Cheese Factory at Woodstock. Here, owner Dan and her team, aim to deliver fresh, honest, simple fare food – free of toxins, preservatives and anything artificial. Meeting Dan and then chatting with her about how all she wanted to do, was "cook food like our grandmothers made", immediately drew me in. Eating from the brunch menu on our recent visit, was so enjoyable with Baked polenta with kaffir lime with roasted tomatoes, crumbed goats cheese and dressed leaves $19.00 & Raw zucchini pasta with smashed peas, purslane, basil and avocado pesto $18.00. I wish I lived closer, so I could make eating her food at Milkhaus a regular thing. Happily, Dan agreed to answer a few questions about her love for food and how Milkhaus came to be, and what she is looking to achieve in this small-town, wholefood canteen.
An interview with Danielle McKeon (Dan) - 'Extensive culinary traveler and successful café owner’
Give us a snapshot of your history working with food Dan?
I was born and bred in Canberra and then went on to live in Brisbane, Vancouver and Turkey. I am a qualified Interior Designer and quite possibly should of furthered my studies to become an architect or landscape designer. I have a strong love of design regardless of the medium.
My mum always cooked from scratch as I was growing up. Even though I probably didn't appreciate it at the time, especially as I watched friends eating junk food, it was obviously a great foundation for how I view food and cooking today. I fell into cooking through having to support myself (pay the rent). I worked in cafes from early teenage years and then naturally progressed into plating up food and doing the cooking. Although I am not formally trained, I have been cooking in commercial kitchens for over 25 years. I still continue to learn new skills and techniques, both by those I surround myself with on a daily basis and by researching new and interesting books and websites.
What does food mean to you?
Food is love, something that should be considered, valued and shared. I am thankful for the luxury that we have in living in such an amazing country as Australia. We have easy access to beautiful fresh produce, plentiful clean air and such passionate growers and producers. It’s always encouraging to see the reemergence of people getting back to basics and growing their own produce.
From Canberra, ACT to Milton, NSW – what led you to leave the big city pace and settle in this historic, slow-paced coastal town?
I came to the coast to be closer to the water. I felt like I had achieved what I wanted to in the food-scene in Canberra, after owning several successful cafes in Canberra (A Bite to Eat and Cafe D’lish), and I was looking for a change of pace. The intention was always to live on a property, be able to grow my own produce, have lots of animals and not work at night. The business isn't open at night, but I still occasionally work into the night. Nothings perfect.
Locally sourced produce is key – where does your produce come from?
We start with growing the basics here at the farm and utilising the produce of like minded local farmers, fishermen, artisans and home gardeners. We are not aiming to be certified organic, just simply to practice farming as nature intended, being conscious and respectful to our land, our bodies, all insects and animals. Eating more vegetables and less meat is a good step towards a more sustainable way of living. To have as little to no wastage, to recycle, up-cycle and compost being thoughtful to the amount of waste we generate into landfill. Our footprint has to be as minimal as possible, in achieving a sustainable and responsible business model.
Tell us about your team.
Our small kitchen team is a collective of passionate people, individuals that want for something cleaner, to produce food that will enhance wellbeing and vitality. Let’s swap out trans-fats and use healthier fats; let’s allow vegetables to take centre stage, rather than being something on the side; let’s use local produce so we don’t have to worry about food miles and finally let’s have some fun with food.
Our garden team is always working on something whether it be weeding, designing new garden features, seasonal planting, weeding again, practicing patience. It takes a lot of hard work and love to bring fresh, delicious produce from the garden to table. One that we hope you appreciate.
You have a desire to incorporate a cooking school on the property?
I have always been interested in education, teaching and the sharing of ideas and life skills. I worked at a cooking school in Canberra on the weekends, once I sold my last business. I taught classes there as well as working with other guests chefs and presenters. I desire to offer that at Milkhaus too.
Tell us one of your favourite food experiences?
Favourite dining experience was definitely a private dinning room at Tetsuya's with loved ones to celebrate my 40th birthday.
Drawing inspiration from her extensive culinary travels, Dan McKeon weaves together extraordinary fusions of your favourite foods, and introduces you to new ones in the process. You’ll find her in the kitchen or the garden, armed with spatula or fork, respectively.
Milk Haus is open for early breakfasts and late lunches.
Private functions are welcome too.
WED-MON 8AM-4PM | CLOSED: TUE & JAN 1st & 2nd
Address: 170 Woodstock Rd, Woodstock NSW 2538.
Ph: (02) 4455 7293