In mid-2003, having just bought a little house up the road, I wandered into the only cafe I knew on Copeland Street in Alexandria. A little 20-seater that was always full and I’d heard had the best coffee in the area.
I stepped in the door and immediately heard a bellowing, thickly accented cry come from within. “Hello teenager! You belong on the catwalk”! As a shy girl, it was then a long walk to the coffee machine where David Bitton stood, beaming and ready to project many more one-liners from his famous bank of them. Although I’d love to feel this was an exclusive introduction to Bitton, I’m sure many of you can relate to this story.
Fast forward a few months, many many coffees (I must be a glutton for punishment) and David and I became firm friends over the counter. In that 5-minute interaction every morning we shared stories of our mutual passion - the old and new worlds of chefs, food, restaurants and everything hospitality. David’s enthusiasm and interest was contagious and it was such a joy seeing him, Gabby and Andy each morning before I took the long commute to the other French chef in my life at the time - Serge Dansereau at the Bathers Pavilion. Bitton quickly became my little morning pick-me-up – the perfect combination of caffeine and conversation.
When I fell pregnant with my first child in late 2003, David convinced me to jump ship from Bathers and start working on the empire that he was building. Having heard a lot about his plans by that time, not for one minute did I doubt that he was going to achieve what he said he would. I couldn’t resist and said yes immediately.
The rest, as they say, is history. 20 years celebrated earlier this year and not one day of regret, boredom, frustration or wishing I was somewhere else. I have sat in that tiny little office with the crazy Frenchmen for all that time and loved every minute of it. That alone has made my decision to leave one of the hardest I will ever make.
The opportunities for me have been endless - the cookbook, opening new venues, immersing myself into other fresh brands through Bitton Consulting, creating events, menus, products and recipes, seeing the Bitton product range reach all national shores and some international too, all while working with some incredible people along the way.
Even the tough times – the fear as the endless competition came into the area, navigating our way through Covid and losing our beloved Gabba Gabs. The sense of community and family that David and Sohani have created at Bitton has seen us through all the highs and lows. Along the way, there have been some very precious friendships made. Staff, customers, suppliers. That feeling only further solidifies what Bitton has meant to me.
And then there is David and Sohani. It’s a unique relationship that is hard to put into words. Both personally and professionally we have challenged each other and supported each other in equal measure. We have laughed hard, solved endless problems, achieved some incredible things, shared with excitement when new exciting opportunities have come our way, and comforted each other when things haven’t quite gone according to plan. We have been tight – I struggle to find a time that we haven’t been on the same page.
To the wider Bitton Community, I will miss all your faces and smiles and the brief conversations as I walk through the doors of Alexandria each day. You have been such an anchor for me for so many years – my children have grown up at the tables of the café, you have embraced me and my family in the most beautiful way. And so I am writing this to say a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you for being part of my life for so many years.
To David and Sohani I look forward to the opportunity to thank you privately, you know how much you mean to me. You are my family. Je táime.
And to Bitton, the business I have wholeheartedly believed in from day one, I hope I have done you proud and represented you in the way you deserve. I know you will continue to thrive in my absence. I look forward to seeing you all at Bitton again, this time as a customer - I will be back for more one-liners, only this time I won’t shy away from them, I will wrap them up and treasure them.