Muchos tacos

A new spice on the Mornington Peninsula

By Natasya Rallios Photos Yanni

You know you are having a good taco when you can smell the tortilla. It’s soft and authentic and does not have a thousand products in it. “Our tacos with the tortillas we use are made of one hundred percent corn, water and salt,” said Peter Fernie, owner of restaurant Tacos Tacos Tacos in Mornington.

The cook and father of three had his first taste of authentic Mexican food in his late teens. He fell in love with the spice from the chillies and the cooked food paired with fresh salsas and guacamole. He learnt more about Mexican food after travelling to the United States and experiencing the mouth-watering taco offerings on a Taco Tour with a great friend who lives in LA (yes, taco tours do exist!).

“I was really surprised at the number of different tacos on offer from different regions of Mexico. It was so different to what I had experienced in Australia and this inspired me to research Mexican food further and deepen my knowledge of the cuisine,” said Peter.

Peter spent his childhood growing up in Melbourne and on the Sunshine Coast. His family were great cooks, and he was always exposed to delicious food as a child. He loved trying new cuisines and would always put his own spin on recipes.

“My cooking was inspired by my Mum and her side of the family. My Mum’s family is English, and Dad’s is Scottish.

I have memories of Mum cooking out of the Women’s Weekly cookbook. She loved great food and there was always a home-cooked meal on our dinner table,” he said.

After years of working in plumbing and sales, Peter took a year off to cook and spend time with his family. He moved to Mornington four years ago and dreamed of opening a food business with his wife and family.

“I have always enjoyed cooking for people and hosting dinner parties. I never thought of a career as a cook, but my family and friends always compliment me on my fantastic cooking. I was ready for a change and I wanted to try and make a living from this,” he said.

His wife Claire was very supportive and encouraged him to follow his passion. She gained a new appreciation of Mexican food after travelling to Los Angeles.

“My wife visited the same local spots that I did in LA. Over a few frozen margaritas she hatched a plan on a napkin with her friend and came home and told me that “we have to do this”.

“With shop rents being so high, we decided to start with local markets and then expanded into catering. Our niche in the market was our gluten-free Mexican recipes. We had a pop-up marquee in a number of suburbs including Mornington, Red Hill, Yarra Glen, Portsea and Sorrento. We then catered for birthdays and special occasions with our taco party and salsa bar theme.”

But when the pandemic hit the markets stopped, and Peter and Claire launched their own delivery service to keep their business viable.

“We posted to all of the local groups on social media and the next thing we know we’re doing local deliveries during the lockdown. It was great that we were so busy, but opening my own cantina was still at the back of my mind,” he said.

It was the passing of Peter’s mother last year that inspired him to take a leap of faith and not wait any longer.

“When Mum passed away it was now or never. I was approaching sixty years old, and I knew that if I left it any longer, I was never going to do it. The shop came up for rent and we negotiated a lease on the property. I know that it’s what Mum would have loved to see,” he said.

Tacos Tacos Tacos opened at the end of November last year and the local community have already asked if there will be a second shop opening. The family-run restaurant has an indoor and outdoor dining area and serves up to 30 people and also offers takeaway and delivery. It has attracted lots of families and locals that love great food.

“I’m really happy with the feedback that I get from my food. A lot of locals have commented on how fresh it is, with many grabbing a burrito for the road. My wife and kids have given away 1500 take away menus.

We originally thought that it would be a takeaway shop but the longer we’ve been open we’ve had to make room for tables as people want to dine in,” he said.

On his menu, you’ll find dishes including a range of tacos, loaded nachos, burritos, quesadillas and tostadas. In time, locals will be able to enjoy Mexican style beers and margaritas with their meals.

With Cinco De Mayo coming up on Wednesday, 5 May Peter and Claire have plans to create a set menu and arrange for a Mexican mariachi to play music and celebrate Mexican food and culture.

Peter is happy and appreciative of the fantastic support that he has received from the local community.

“It’s nice to be able to fulfil this dream with my family and I know Mum would be proud.”

A: 96 Wilsons Rd, Mornington
P: 0490 103 612

Peninsula Essence – May 2021