After 8 years at Domaine Chandon, working with winemaking teams from all over the world, John had the desire to create his own brand. After moving back home to Ballarat and joining forces with his wine-loving in-laws, the Mitchells, Mitchell Harris was born.
What is happening with the restaurant business at this stage?
Apart from a couple of days at the start of the crisis, we have been able to keep our doors open, although trading under a very different business model. During the two days that we were closed, we remodelled our bar into the Mitchell Harris Take Away Wine and Convenience Store, and our kitchen team created a new Take Away & Heat at Home menu. One of our bar managers is baking bread and we’ve been able to keep our whole permanent and part-time team on board, doing deliveries, taking orders, cleaning, doing maintenance and even making donuts!
How did harvest go and what impact has the lockdown had on this part of the business?
Luckily, we had just finished harvest by the time the first lockdown laws were announced, and we handpicked the last blocks practising early safe distancing. Yields were considerably lower this year but the quality is very high.
Sadly the lockdown laws prevented the Curious Winemaker program team from coming together to help press off their batch of Pyrenees Shiraz. However, Craig (Mitchell), our kids and I, got our hands dirty and pressed it off whilst we live streamed the process via Instagram and WhatsApp.
How do you think things will go for Ballarat once restrictions are downgraded?
There will be some short-term, acute pain for some no doubt, but the long term growth prospects for Ballarat are still very good. We have seen our sense of community strengthen during the pandemic with greater connection between local business and the community.
Perhaps people will reassess their desire to live in densely populated urban environments and will realise that they can work at home or remotely. Ballarat with its world-class education and medical facilities, growing industry sector and thriving hospitality scene will continue to shine and prosper.
How do you stay positive in this time?
I guess for the first few weeks, amongst all the unknown and the fear, we had the somewhat perverse feeling of exhilaration as we essentially started a new business. All of a sudden we were thrust into start-up mode and peddled frantically to turn our winemaking and wine bar business into a takeaway delivery model.
We have been overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received from our regular customers, our fellow hospitality colleagues and the community in general. Being able to deliver the same Mitchell Harris service and quality into peoples homes and to keep putting smiles on their faces has been immensely rewarding.
What have you been watching or reading in iso?
Sadly, I haven’t necessarily had any additional spare time. Between business survival and homeschooling, I have read a lot of spreadsheets and financial reports but also a couple of brilliant Tim Winton books, The Shepherd’s Hut and The Boy Behind the Curtain. At home in the evenings I’ve been raiding the cellar and watching the new series of Ozark, Life After Death and revisiting The Fall on Netflix and we were captivated by The Capture on ABC iView.
38 Doveton St, North Ballarat
Mitchell Harris is currently doing take-away and delivery to homes around Ballarat. The venue will be reopening to a limited number from June 1. Check their socials for updates.