Frank Torres, owner of El Toucan cafe in Melbourne’s western suburb of Maribyrnong, is a
Colombian-born chef and entrepreneur. Widely considered the pioneer of Colombian food in
Australia, he opened the first Colombian restaurant, El Dorado, in Melbourne CBD back in 2004.
Previously Frank also launched Margaritas Mexican restaurant in Lilydale (1998), El Dorado Catering (2005) and El Dorado Cafe in Williams Landing (2016). Inspired by his Colombian heritage, Frank has created an authentic Colombian menu at El Toucan inspired by Victorian produce, which he grows from home and sources direct from local paddock-to-table butchers. El Toucan in particular has gained media attention for its unsuspecting location inside the Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre, where families swap typical, greasy swimming pool food for vibrant Colombian fare and coffee to a soundtrack of Latin music.
Powered by community, Frank has also taught cooking lessons at the Julia Gillard Library in Tarneit, provided free barista courses at the Salt Lake community centre in Point Cook in 2016 and was recognised in 2009 for volunteering to feed fire fighters during the black Saturday. He also runs a mobile coffee cart and catering business.
Ultimately, Frank is driven by his heritage and the desire to challenge Colombian stereotypes.
“I want to show Australians that Colombia is not just a country where drugs are an issue, but an amazing country with beautiful people, great music, food and incredible biodiversity. My mission is to put Colombian food on the map in Australian and make it as accessible and popular as Mexican food,” he says.
Frank credits his mother, Fanny, with his success so far. Although Frank studied cookery in Melbourne, he maintains that only his mother could have provided him with his knowledge of ancestral flavours. You can read more about the influence of his mother’s cooking in this Good Food review of his city restaurant.