Plenty of us dream of leaving the corporate world to run a café, but Ernest Igual has gone one step further.
Working as a management consultant for one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms, Ernest wanted to do ‘something that had more meaning than helping a bank make more millions’. He also wanted to work more ‘hands on’ and to be in a role where he had more direct contact with what he was producing – seeing the link between what ‘you produce and the person you made it for’ in his words.
After 10 years, he took the plunge in late 2002 and took over a franchised café concept in Burwood. It was hard work with long hours, but it was a great experience, and Ernest built the café into a successful operation. However, in late 2003, his son was born, and along with wanting to reduce his hours, Ernest had taken an increasing interest in specialty coffee, including spending a lot of time at Campos in Sydney’s inner-west Newtown.
As the association grew, Ernest was impressed with Campos’ commitment to coffee excellence and the pride they took in their product; the relationship developed and in April Will Young (owner of Campos) offered to train Ernest as their new roaster.
There were long days, as Will trained him on the different blends and roasting profiles, but eventually he had built up the skill and the confidence to take over. So how did you find making the change from management consultant to boutique coffee roaster? ‘It was a whole new world,’ says Ernest. ‘You need to understand the relationship between all the variables; understand the roast profiles for the different beans… there were skills that I brought with me’ he says, ‘but with coffee roasting, you need to rely on your senses – sight, sound and smell – you need to learn how to put them all together to get the perfect end-product’.
Now, he wouldn’t dream of going back, even though the wages and conditions are nothing like what he was on. ‘It’s great to get the reward for really giving yourself fully to something and producing a product that you can be really proud of,’ says Ernest, ‘and working at Campos has been an inspiration’. ‘At first, the motivation was to be as good as these guys’, he says. ‘Now that I’m here, it’s great to be part of this environment’.
Having come a long way from the café at Burwood and even further from the ivory tower in the city, there’s every indication that there’s just no stopping Ernest!