– by Alex O’Neil
I sat down with Ami McDonald, the owner of La Paleta, in her Bibra Lake warehouse where all the magic happens. The space is colourful and fun, and a perfect reflection of what they are doing at La Paleta.
First things first, what is a paleta and where do they come from?
AM: In America popsicles sprung up by freezing soda pop. Mexico didn’t have the means to have these artificial things accessible, but what they did have was a lot of fresh fruit. Around the same time that popsicles started in America, and iced lollies started in England, they started paletas in Mexico, but they were using fresh ingredients.
What inspired you to create La Paleta?
AM: I was doing theatre design where the work can be hit and miss, and I’m just not that personality. So I thought I would just start up a tiny little business that I can pick up and put down whenever work was slow. As I started doing it I got more and more exited about it and I realised it had potential to be so much more than just something small. Also, three years ago, when we started, the market scene was growing and Perth was getting a bit more foodie as well – of course there were already a lot of amazing restaurants, but the market scene was really starting to pick up and I wanted to be one of the people that was really pushing the newer food tastes.
Do you have a background in cooking, or did you fall in love with the ice-cream movement and think I’m going to give this a go?
AM: I think design helps. But also my friends, their ability to cook amazes me. Their flavour profiles are beyond and they are all really honest about the flavours we create which helps to refine our recipes. When I first started I was very keen on the design part of it and the produce. I didn’t really care about whether we were successful, or rich, or whether or not we were everywhere. As long as we looked good and tasted really good, well then we’d made it.
Where do you get your flavour inspiration?
AM: Definitely from places like Mexico, Columbia and Brazil, they all have their own distinct paleta flavours. In Brazil they have vanilla, coconut, chocolate and corn as the standard flavours.
Tell me about your incredible sundaes! What goes into a La Paleta sundae?
AM: You need to get it all right! It’s not just a few nuts and a sauce, you want to blow people away. I think there should always be something special. We are doing a donut, and at Beaufort Street we did a brownie. We’ve done a lot of testers! We’ve done a meringue with a strawberries and cream paleta and berries and mint on top. The meringue was one of our testers that didn’t win – it came second to the chocolate brownie sundae in our team taste test (I was barracking for the meringue). The winner was a brownie sundae with salted caramel paleta and a caramel sauce and sour cherries, you always need something to cut through. A bit of flavour and a bit of fun, the sundaes are a treat.
How would you describe the culture at La Paleta?
AM: We are very community focussed. I had always seen the utopic view of what a small business would be, like when you see French restaurants all start off with a meal and you think, oh, if I had a business I would do that. It’s hard to keep hold of that ethos, but we do sit down everyday, we provide lunch for our staff and share a meal. There are times where you think you shouldn’t be stopping the kitchen for a whole half an hour worth of lunch, because that doesn’t make good business, and perhaps I shouldn’t be providing lunch. However, these are the moments I realise this is exactly the type of business I want to be running.
Where can we find you guys?
AM: We’ve got twelve stockists, and we’ve worked hard to move out of Freo and towards the city, which at this point is the furthest we’ve ventured. We’ve got to try and get up to Joondalup some time soon. Aside from the stockist, each week during summer we work at different food markets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’ll also do special things that are happening, like festivals and weddings. We are doing the Pride Fair Day this Sunday, so that will be really fun. We are at Fringe, the Twilight Hawkers Markets, and we are always at the Bathers Beach Sunset Markets every Saturday night – which I love. Especially on those warm still nights, it’s the best place to be, it has a really good vibe, with a really good food selection. Plus, it’s ten minutes from our house.
Photo Credit: http://www.lapaleta.com.au