Region had a five-minute chat with Ghufran Jannat who took over the Red Mandolin Cafe in Forest Hill four weeks ago.
Who is Ghufran Jannat: That’s a difficult question. I’m a husband, a father of two boys and a professional chef. I have always liked cooking but I had done my master’s in agriculture and I didn’t find my passion in it. That’s why I changed my career to cookery.
I moved to Qatar in 2017 after my studies and started my business in construction and transport. We moved to Australia in 2019 when my wife got a scholarship to do her PhD at CSU. Due to COVID, I lost both of my companies.
We then started a new life here in Wagga. We’re from a small city in Kashmir (Pakistan) and we lived most of our lives there, so when we moved to Wagga, we didn’t feel it was that much different. We took over the Red Mandolin Cafe about four weeks ago; it has been amazing ever since. People in Forest Hill are wonderful … they have accepted us with the added changes. I have extended the menu and added kebabs and snack packs and I have also extended the opening hours.
Best recent dining experience: I would have to say Rashays. It had a nice atmosphere.
Favourite cuisine: My favourite cuisine is Turkish and I like grilled food a lot. When I was in England for my studies, I used to get a platter with everything – veggies, all the meats and hummus.
What ingredient can I not live without: All the traditional Indian and Pakistani spices.
How many Weet-Bix do I do: I just have one … it’s quite heavy.
Best coffee spot in Wagga: Aside from mine, I would have to say FLOK Cafe. They make good coffee.
Favourite coffee: I like to drink a flat white.
What’s your coffee blend: We use Coffex.
Next big thing in the Wagga food scene: Wagga is growing nicely, and I can see different kinds of cuisines being introduced. I want to see more Middle Eastern food in Wagga, especially grilled food.
Favourite place to lunch in Wagga: There are a couple of places. I like Flok Cafe and Char Que.
A must-try on our menu: From my menu, I would like people to try the kebabs.
Most used ingredient at Red Mandolin Cafe: We use a lot of lettuce and steak.
Our top pick from our desserts: Baklavas.
My biggest culinary influence: My mum. She used to be a good cook. I used to also like watching Gordon Ramsay and Master Chef. From all of that, I got the idea to start cooking.
Favourite cookbook: I’m not fond of reading. Sometimes, I Google or YouTube recipes.
Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene: The owners of FLOK Cafe. They have delicious cuisine and a good mix of English and Asian food.
What are this week’s specials at Red Mandolin Cafe: We don’t have weekly specials yet, but we are working on it.
Death row meal: Just kadhi – it’s a yoghurt dish that Mum used to make the dish all the time, and I used to love it.
Where am I travelling next: I hope to visit Bali soon.
Dream destination: Dubai. Even though I lived in the Middle East, I never went to Dubai.
My biggest fear: My biggest fear is drowning.
My top three cooking tips: Cooking takes time and passion. Give the time and love to your cooking. Use fresh ingredients and ensure a perfect balance of the spices.
Red Mandolin Cafe is located at 3/34 Allonby Avenue Forest Hill and is open Monday from 6 am to 3 pm, Tuesday to Friday from 6 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 7 am to 8 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.