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Alana Vandenbrink

Mollydookers Cafe & Bar
Apple Tree Creek, Wide Bay-Burnett

Born and bred in regional Queensland, Alana Vandenbrink was always destined to open a local restaurant. Meeting her husband, Michael, whilst working overseas, they decided to bring a little piece of Canada back to regional Queensland.

My name is Alana Vandenbrink. My company is Mollydookers Cafe & Bar and I live in Apple Tree Creek.

I grew up in Apple Tree Creek, did my university degree on the Gold Coast and moved to Canada for about 10 years. It was meant to be 2 years, it went to 2 and half years, it went on to about 10.

So the menu is essentially Canadian-inspired which for us means that it's everything that we missed from Canada, so we've got poutine with real curd, you've got proper wings and sliders and reubens. We use all local produce from all the farmers, so we say Canadian-inspired, everything is Australian made.

The best way to learn about our line of work is probably just through experience more than anything. I've worked in a lot of different places and I tried to take the best that I learnt from all of those places and incorporated into Mollydookers. I've never owned my own business, but I've treated everywhere I've ever worked like it was my own business.

The first time someone asked Alana to open a restaurant in her local area she was only 19. She knew she wasn't ready for that. She was young, single, hadn't travelled and was only 2 years into a 4 year university degree. But the idea stuck and no local ever let her forget it.

At university, Alana went on exchange to Canada and met her future husband and business partner, Mike. They lived and worked in hospitality all over Canada for the next 8 years, serving, managing, bartending and working in kitchens. They learnt about the industry with the idea of one day opening their own business.

When Alana was called home as her father passed away, she knew the time had come for a change. Shortly after, an opportunity to purchase a local venue in Apple Tree Creek arose. It was old, run-down and requiring a full renovation, but after 8 long, hard months the Canadian restaurant, Mollydookers Cafe & Bar, was open to the public. The restaurant represented everything the couple missed about Canada — the food, the service and the atmosphere, and visitors and locals loved it.

In its first year, the cafe won a regional award for culinary tourism. Through word-of-mouth alone the restaurant is always full and often sold out, and they believe their integrity and exceptional customer service is what sets them apart. Alana and Michael strive to remain calm and collected through whatever challenges they face, whether it be flooding, food and staff shortages or equipment failures. As they will tell you, it is about being honest, rolling with the punches and overcoming the challenges which makes life exciting.

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