The Essential Ingredient returns to Junction Fair as centre owner vows to return it to its former glory

Kitchen connoisseur: Leonie Young at The Essential Ingredient, which has returned to Junction Fair. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers. GOURMANDmagnet The Essential Ingredient has returned to its original home at The Junction Fair as the centre’s Sydney-based owner vows to return the shopping venueto its former glory.
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Leonie Young founded the franchisedboutique kitchen supply store with a business partnerin 2005 at the centre before moving to a bigger site onDarby Street in 2010.

The move to Cooks Hillallowed the business to build a purpose-built area for its well-regarded cooking school and add a cafe.

However when the opportunity came up for a lease at Junction Fair, Mrs Young said she was attracted by the “high-end” plans of the centre’s owner, Sydney-based Fortius Funds Management.

Fortius bought Junction Fair for $32 million in December, 2014, its asset managerRenaud Herington saying the groupwas attracted by the single-level site with the right demographic in “the best part of Newcastle”.

“We are trying to get Junction Fair back to is former glory,” Mr Herington said of the 25-shop centre.

Fortius has recently signed 12 Rounds gymnasium, is in leaseholdtalks with fresh fruit and cafeoperators and is “actively seeking a seafood operator”, he said.

Newcastle-founded donut business Doughheads has taken on the lease of the former Gloria Jeans site and Mr Herington said Fortius had found its Newcastle dealings “rewarding”.

“The tenancy mix is all Newcastle brands, many which have evolved from a garage or market, so it’s become a real Newcastle centre,” he said.

Though The Essential Ingredient has sacrificed floor space in its newlocation, Mrs Young said it brought welcome benefits. It nolonger has a cafe but has tripled the size of its commercial kitchen for its popular cooking classes,which passersby can observe.

“We’ve had nose marks on the windows from people looking in,” said Mrs Young.

The store will beef up its retail – 40 per cent of its clients are wholesale, in the restaurantsector–and deli, with more cheese andfresh food items including Udder Farm milk and eggs.

Staffed by foodies, chefs or ex-chefs, she saidThe Essential Ingredient was also the preferred Newcastle supplier for brands including MagiMix.

Mrs Young said the store had strong relations with their suppliers and selected products carefully, knowing their knowledge and range of stock will set them apart.

“We have to be meticulous because chefs expect us to know and expect the best at a reasonable price,” she says.

The store will also offer home-style takeaway meals made in house, such as pates, pies and terrines: “It’s also great for cheating at dinner parties, who doesn’t love confit duck,” Mrs Young said.