Business card & menu mission statement
Business card & menu mission statement. c 1988

Our Sourdough history stretches back more than 34 years. We started out as Wholefoods Kitchen in 1981 in central Geelong. Wholefoods Kitchen evolved to Wholefoods Cafe + Gallery in 1986.

We were originally inspired by publications such as the American East West magazine and the macrobiotic/wholefood philosophy in general. Numerous surfing trips up the East coast to Byron Bay and Noosa during the early seventies and exposure to fantastic niche ‘hippy’ food venues in those locations (often operated by expatriate American surfer/travelers) tended to reinforce our interest in alternative, natural wholefoods.

Wholefoods Kitchen
Wholefoods Kitchen store front: McLarty Place, Geelong. c1983


The attraction of baking healthy bread using really good whole flour (organic flour was not widely available then!) with a natural leaven was irresistible. Yeast, in wholefood circles, was generally regarded with suspicion, due to incidences of allergic reaction. Natural leaven baking was arguably nutritionally better, had a great tangy flavour and was so completely different to the bread we had all eaten growing up.

The idea of leaping back and connecting with such an ancient baking method seemed so logical and yet almost subversive since it had been all but extinguished as a baking method by the common reliance on baker’s yeast.

Baker’s yeast was originally isolated in the laboratory around 150 years ago and had gradually taken over in most commercial operations by the 1970’s.  Yeast, a key factor in industrialization of bread making can be described as a monoculture leaven agent; sourdough leavens are multi cultural, containing a multiplicity of wild yeasts and gut friendly bacteria. Sourdough leaven needs to be carefully nurtured to achieve the best baking results and different bakers, flours and locations can produce delightfully unique outcomes.

In the late 70’s we became early converts to tamari, tempeh, tofu and miso and were intrigued with the possibilities and mysteries of fermentation as a food ‘improver’.  Natural multicultural fermentation is often described as a form of ‘pre-digestion’; releasing valuable minerals and nutrients otherwise not readily digestable.

The need to remain in proximity to the coast for surf and to be able to lead a natural lifestyle in the countryside gave us the impetus to establish a natural foods cafe. Wholefoods Cafe commenced business in McLarty Place, Geelong in 1981.

Wholefoods Kitchen doing lunch. c1983

In 1991 we relocated the Cafe into a renovated Edwardian shop front in nearby James Street.

For over 20 years we made sandwiches from our hand-made sourdough bread which we baked in house.  As early ‘pioneers’ in sourdough it took much trial and error to understand the fermentation process and to master the art of sourdough bread making.

The Zeally Bay Sourdough leaven has been a constant since those early days – it might just be the oldest leaven in commercial production in Australia.

Wholefoods Cafe + Gallery: James Street, Geelong. c1992

Some examples of our menus from then

Some press from then

We were recommended by The Age Good Food Guide and Age Cheap Eats from 1989 onwards and in articles published in the Geelong Advertiser.

By the early nineties we were cranking out sourdough leavened fruitcakes, panettone, biscotti and sweet and savoury pastries as well as Chinese date and walnut scrolls, baguettes and muffins.  The only leavening we used in the Cafe was sourdough or egg whites.  By then all of our flour was organic and so too was much of our larder.

Some of our ads from then

In 2007 a long held ambition to establish the first fully certified organic bakery in Victoria finally came to fruition.

Our passions for surfing, organic vegetable gardening, good food and real bread all came together on the coast in Torquay; home of Zeally Bay Sourdough.