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Max Relaxo at Yaye's

Housed in the Araluen Cultural Precinct, in the former Connellan Airways mess house, is Yaye’s Café, offering coffee and light refreshments daily to the Precinct’s many welcome visitors. Yaye’s, pronounced yar-yars, means sisters in Arrernte language, and relates to the Two Women Dreaming story that runs through the land the Precinct calls home.

By Kodi Twiner

The space is soundtracked by native birdsong and South American music plays through the speakers, offering a welcoming and gentle vibe with an imprint of Latino culture. For owner Max Fonte, it’s more than just a café.

“I’m from Argentina, my South American roots are very present in everything I do.”

Max arrived in Mparntwe in 2015 after looking at the map and choosing “a place not by the coast”. His two-week trip to the desert turns into eight years this July. He applied to operate Yaye’s in 2019, and within a few months it opened, all set for its new chapter.

Then the world went sideways. Pandemic, no tourism, you know the story. But Max notes the community as the reason Yaye’s pulled through.

“We survived through local support.”

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Max, who insists that owning a café in Central Australia was never in the plan. But he has no regrets, and his deep value of community and culture is evident in every story he shares.

Yaye’s signature dish is the empanada. Max started making empanadas at local markets, which has transferred to the café menu with ease. The South American style pastries come in a variety of flavours, like chilli sweet corn or bacon, egg and cheese. Yaye’s also serves traditional herbal tea, known as maté, and chilli hot chocolate.

For a sweet treat, sample their best-selling homemade, mama's recipe, apple cake.

The café has become a home away from home for the team.

“If you’re in the kitchen you will hear English and Spanish, it gets messy, it gets noisy, it’s loud sometimes. A little bit like us,” Max says.

The outdoor area is family friendly, kids and pets are welcome with a toy-box and plenty of space, and customers can donate a toy in exchange for a babycino. It’s also become a bit of a hot spot for freelancers, who work from their laptops, nicely caffeinated with full tummies. Max has his favourite tip for a blissful café experience.

“I think the best time to come to Yaye’s is in the morning light. You can have time to yourself, which is precious. The air is fresh, the light hitting the mural … mornings are really nice.”

Inside the building, Yaye’s sells local artisan jewellery and holds exhibitions throughout the year. It was the hub for Desert Song Festival 2022, and they’ve hosted book releases and mental health week events. Providing a venue for the community is a passion for Max, so if you've got an idea, he's open to collaboration.

“Come in and chat with us. If we can do it, we will do it!” he says.

Get your max relaxo on, enjoy the mingling of cultures, community and cuisine, and let Max and his friendly team look after you.


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