When Dave Grant tells his customers he's a doctor, they chuckle into their flat white and tell him to pull the other one.
Grant, 26, left his job as a junior doctor at Taranaki Base Hospital to try his hand at making coffee.
The story is met by scepticism from most patrons.
"They're like ‘yeah right, why are you working here then?' "
Although his family, friends and most of his former colleagues were supportive, Grant's decision shocked some, including one cafe manager from whom he was seeking a job.
"She sat me down in the cafe and gave me a 20 minute monologue about why I should ring them and ask for the job back.
"She felt so sorry for me."
But Grant is thriving behind the coffee machine and loves being able to go home without worrying about work.
Piccolo Morso owner Lou Smith said she and her staff were captivated by Grant's excitement to make coffee.
"I just thought, why is no-one giving him a chance?"
Smith was impressed by how quickly he picked up the skills.
"He's such a good barista."
Grant isn't so sure.
"I think I'm a little bit unco-ordinated.
"The girls are nice, they say I learnt it real fast."
He reckons he's OK now, but he's still trying to master the designs on top of the coffee.
"I was trying to nail the heart for Valentine's Day but I didn't quite get there in time."
People who come into the cafe either think it's funny and greet him as Doc, or refuse to believe a doctor would hang up his stethoscope to make coffee.
But Grant said the stress was getting to him and it was time for a break.
The transition from doctor to barista was smooth for Grant, whose chatty nature is just as suited to interaction over the coffee machine as it is to putting patients at ease.
"You get the regulars who come in and you get to know them because people open up to baristas kind of like they do to hairdressers.
"You can definitely tell if they're having an up or a down period in life, just by how they walk in, you can tell by the body language."
The reduced income was a difficult adjustment, but Grant said it was a good chance to make sure he wasn't spending money carelessly.
"But it's definitely been a struggle, a change in lifestyle."
The experience relating to other walks of life will help him when he returns to medicine, he said.
He does miss the collegiality of the medical staff and the interaction with people on a deeper level.
"At the hospital you're sitting down and talking with them about their struggles.
"I do miss that.
"But I don't miss the nights or the long hours on the weekends."
Since Grant started at the cafe, Piccolo Morso has seen a marked increase in large groups of nurses and other medical staff popping in for coffee.
So does he think he's helped business?
"I like to think so."
- Taranaki Daily News
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