28 May 2024

Five minutes with Taylor Wright, Catbird

| Claire Sams
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A White woman in a green apron

Taylor Wright wants to bring sunny California to the inner south of our bush capital. Photo: Claire Sams.

Who are you?

My name is Taylor Wright. I am the owner of Catbird in Canberra, which is a new Californian-inspired cafe and lunch spot in Parkes.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

I spent my three years at university trying to figure out what I wanted to be. I found my favourite times were when I was in a kitchen. I’d worked in food [service] at university as a side job – so I went to culinary school. I graduated in 2008, when we had a really big recession, and a lot of restaurants closed and the ones that didn’t were cutting down on the staff they hired.

I ended up getting a student visa in Spain and went and worked over there for a year. That was amazing. But I made a friend who was Australian and whose brother owned restaurants on the Gold Coast. He needed a pastry chef, and that’s how I came to Australia.

Burrito with green salsa

Taylor says every region of California has its own breakfast burrito – but you won’t need to travel for those flavours at Catbird. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What is the story behind your venue?

I’ve owned companies before and tried to go corporate – I didn’t love it. I just really wanted to get back to cafe ownership. I was thinking about what felt the most authentic to me and what I could give Canberra that was a little bit different.

For the most part, the menu is all the things that I’ve missed eating while I’ve been in Australia. I couldn’t find them anywhere else!

READ ALSO How much should a cup of coffee cost?

What is your food philosophy?

I think food is the most real and has the most love when it’s a little bit nostalgic and true to where you’re from. California food, to me, has a lot of influences from around the world. We have a lot of citrus, a lot of fresh vegetables and lots of Mexican and South Asian influences. I wanted to bring all that to Canberra.

What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I’m really trying to watch The Bear. I love it, but I can only watch it in short bursts because it gives me so much anxiety. However, it’s so good and accurate about what working in a kitchen can be like.

The new episodes of Bluey are spot-on. They’re so good! For the parents, they build into really complex emotional situations that my kid is never going to comprehend, but there’s a storyline for him, so it works out well.

Mango smoothie with chilli sauce in front of pink menu with Catbird logo.

Despite wanting to be a doctor, Taylor’s path took her to culinary school and, ultimately, to Australia. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What cuisines are you always making?

I really enjoy Mexican food. My husband, not as much. I really like fresh-made carnitas tacos with coriander and red onion. It’s simple, but the amount of flavour you can get through the meat is amazing. My husband likes the old-school Americanised tacos with ground beef, cheese, tomato and lettuce.

We have a young kid and he really likes noodles, so we have noodles in all shapes and sizes at home a lot.

What was your dream job as a kid?

I was definitely going to be an ER doctor. That was the goal. I did summers volunteering at the hospital; I read biology books for fun.

That was until my second week of university chemistry, and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m out.’ I did really well in science at high school – it came really easily. When I got to university, it was harder than I thought it was.

READ ALSO Top Canberra chef explains why good food is best enjoyed off beautiful plates

What was your best dining experience in Canberra?

We really like Johno’s Takeaway and Pizza Bar in Mawson. It’s a great small family-owned takeaway shop in the old Aussie tradition – and the pizzas have tons of toppings, which are hard to find now.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

Batch brew. There’s always something for what you grew up drinking or eating as your comfort food. Long blacks hit some of the spots, but it’s not the same thing as American coffee.

Catbird is located in the Griffin Building at 44 Constitution Avenue in Parkes and is open from 7 am to 2 pm, seven days a week.

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