A new chapter for Zul and Café Z
by JR GIAMMARIO
25th October 2021
CAFÉ Z, HAS BEEN an important part of the Research and broader Nillumbik community for more than 20 years. Owner Zulal “Zul” Rogers opened the café in June 8, 2001, converting it from the Nillumbik Country Café to Café Z with the aim of introducing the community to Turkish culinary culture.
But after two decades of introducing Research and the surrounding community to Köfte, Döner, Baklava, and Kahvalti, and being a general all-round community superstar, Zul has hung up her apron and handed the café over to new owners in late-September.
To mark this new chapter in her life, WD Bulletin spoke with Zul about the last 20 years.
Prior to owning Café Z, Zul ran a catering business from home, selling food at the Eltham Market and teaching Turkish cooking classes at the local Living and Learning Centre.
The balance between raising young children and running a small business from home was stressful, not being able to “call home, home” is one of the reasons why Zul decided to open Café Z.
“Everyone dreams of owning a café, but I had to work my butt off.”
The first five years were tough, and she initially struggled to attract customers to come and try Turkish cuisine. “Research was a very anglo area and I was introducing Middle Eastern Turkish cuisine, so I had to find the right balance to keep the customers happy”.
Zul found that her food was “accepted, and not accepted” with people making comments belittling the type of food she was making, such as falafel.
But, over time, the community discovered the delight of Turkish cuisine, and she watched her business grow.
It is nearly impossible to chart the journey of a business, especially a café, without mentioning the current pandemic. Like many, government restrictions meant Zul needed to pivot to keep Café Z afloat.
She did this by providing freshly cooked, packed foods, take away coffee, and a bright, positive attitude to everyone who came to her front door.
The community response was a true testament to how Zul has made an impact within the community, with regulars not only showing their support with their wallet.
“The number of bunches of flowers and cards we got from people saying thank you for getting us through COVID was just beautiful, touching and humbling.
“We were fortunate, very fortunate and lucky.”
Doing anything for 20 years is a long time, so WD Bulletin asked Zul what her favourite part was of owning a café. “Meeting beautiful people and customers who have become friends”.
Over time, Zul has developed a two-way relationship with her customers, from an “outpour of love and support for the café and staff ”, to customers bringing in fresh, home-grown lemons for her desserts.
Looking forward, Café Z continues under the stewardship of new owners Rosa and Paul, adding their own take on
Image supplied, Facebook
what regulars of Café Z have become accustomed to, and the new owners have her blessing.
As for Zul, she continues to provide Turkish cuisine and cooking classes under the banner of Hart & Sole Catering and is also looking forward to going back to school in 2022, with the aim to become a teacher and is looking forward to a change of pace from the stresses of running a café.
Zul would like to the thank the community of Nillumbik for the kindness and generosity over the years.
“It’s been a beautiful humbling experience and I’m glad they liked what I did, thank you, thank you, thank you”. Zul would also like to thank her four children, Jess, Dylan, Will and Hamish for their love and support over the years. We wish Zul and her family all the best for their future endeavours.