24 June 2024

Five minutes with Stephanie Plane, Mrs Jones Pantry

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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woman with her grandmother

Stephanie Plane with her grandmother, Cassie Jones. Photo: Supplied.

Who is Stephanie Plane? I have always dreamed of having a cafe … even to the point where I used to play cafes with my friend. I tried to open a cafe before, but four days before I did, I found I was pregnant with my fourth child. I thought it wouldn’t work and put it on the back burner for about a dozen years. I was working in admin. I’ve worked with Dr Joe McGirr and Kay Hull. I know the issues surrounding us here in Wagga and love the community. Then, this (Mrs Jones Pantry, previously Le Brooks Cafe) opportunity presented itself, and my husband supported me in doing it. We came in here, cleaned up, and started again.

I’ve renamed it Mrs Jones after my grandmother. I’ve always cooked with her and my mum. We’re always cooking, and my family loves our food. My grandmother is 103. She’s in Gundagai Hospital, currently in palliative care. She sat here and had coffee when we first opened.

I’m quite passionate about fresh food. There’s always something cooking – soup, frittata, or my mum will bring in apple pies that she makes. We are fresh, homemade, tasty, and flavoured; nothing frozen or long life. I love making and the whole process of food and the science behind it. I love using everything that I can, and I use things in different ways.

I’m always feeding people. I love it. It is love for me. It is how you show love to people. It is very soulful to feed people. It is an innate mothering and part of that nurturing is feeding people.

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Best recent dining experience: My girlfriends and I had dinner at Pastorale a couple of months ago. I recommended we go there. I know Richard quite well. I’ve been there and thought they would appreciate the vibe. It was absolutely beautiful, as always.

Favourite cuisine: My favourite cuisine is Thai food and I love tom kha gai.

The ingredient I cannot live without: I cannot live without ginger.

Bolzano cake

Stephanie’s must-try pear and maple Bolzano cake. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Most embarrassing pantry/fridge item: I do have a jar of crunchy Biscoff spread.

How many Weet-Bix do you do? If I do Weet-Bix, I’d only do one. I don’t like a big brekky.

Best coffee spot in Wagga: I’d say Mrs Jones Pantry and until recently I would have said Jardine’s. When I was at Dr Joe, it was next door; that was where I always got my coffee.

poster of a sandwich

The Reuben is a popular item on the lunch menu at Mrs Jones Pantry. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Favourite coffee: Latte.

What’s your coffee blend? We use Genovese Coffee. It’s made in Melbourne, and they’re pretty much the last family roasters and haven’t sold out to Maccas or Coke. They are just Italian family roasters, very authentic and passionate about their coffee.

I like their cups because they go with my vibe in the shop. I’ve gone with the ’40s wartime because that’s when Mrs Jones married. It was the postwar, and everyone was living it up. We’ve romanticised it a bit. I imagine it was terrible, but the music was great. We get a lot of compliments about our music. I have one lady who always goes, ”Turn it up one notch” if no-one else is here.

What’s the weirdest coffee order you’ve received? Someone asked for a cappuccino with five sugars, and when the coffee was given to her, she added three sweeteners.

girl with tray of mugs in cafe

Stephanie says her 12-year-old daughter Millicent is becoming the fourth generation getting involved in food. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Next big thing in the Wagga food scene: I would love the next big thing to be dining out for families that don’t involve alcohol and gambling as a side gig.

Favourite place to lunch in Wagga: Mrs Jones and Romano’s for lunch.

A must-try on our menu: Should try our Reuben. People come for our Reuben. They might come for something else, but they stay for the Reuben.


Check out Mrs Jones Pantry in the Australian Arcade for a wide range of sweet and savoury goodies. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Most used ingredient at Mrs Jones Pantry: Chicken. Everyone eats it. I use all the bones to make stock. Chicken is our biggest used and most contentious too.

Our top pick from our desserts: We make a beautiful pear and maple Bolzano cake.

My biggest culinary influence: Mrs Jones and my mum. My grandmother had and still has seven children and her youngest was seven when my grandfather was killed quite suddenly in a car accident. What I love is how she could make a meal out of anything. My mum does the same thing and I think I can do the same now.

soup in a hot pot

It’s soup season, so it’s the perfect time to try Stephanie’s delicious homemade offerings. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Favourite cookbook: I have Stephanie Alexander’s big kitchen bible – The Cook’s Companion.

Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene: Food I Am. I love everything that they do out there.

What are this week’s specials at Mrs Jones Pantry: We don’t [do weekly specials], but we have seasonal specials.

frittatas in a cafe

Stephanie’s bacon, potato, zucchini and tomato frittata is another winner on the menu. Photo: Mrs Jones Pantry.

Death-row meal: I’d have to say Reuben, it’s the best sandwich on the planet. And eight gin and tonics.

Where am I travelling to next: We’re going to Ronald McDonald’s ball in Sydney in September. My husband and I go to that event every year, and we have very good friends on the board of the [Ronald] McDonald House.

Dream destination: South of France.

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My biggest fear: It used to be failing, but I’m not afraid of failing now. I’m over 50 now, so nothing really gives me a terrible fright. I wouldn’t want to lose a child; I don’t think I could manage that. I could honestly say I’m almost fearless.

My least-favourite food: Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

My top-three cooking tips: Season, season and season. Try everything. Cooking is 99 per cent experimentation. You’ve just got to try it. Save all the bits you’ve chopped up and didn’t use, and throw them in with your bones for the stock.

Mrs Jones Pantry is in the Australian Arcade, Shop 11-12, 56 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga. The cafe is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 2:30 pm.

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