SWEET TOUCH

Vir­gin Aus­tralia’s res­i­dent chef Luke Man­gan chats to Rowie’s Cakes founder Rowie Dil­lon about how she be­gan her busi­ness, and her plans for its growth.

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How did it all be­gin? I was forced to take three months off work when I re­ceived sec­ond- and third-de­gree burns to my hands from a pot-belly stove and [dur­ing this time] I came up with the idea of cre­at­ing my al­ler­gen­free brand, Rowie’s Cakes

— a kitchen that bakes wheat-, yeast-, gluten- and dairy-free prod­ucts. Six­teen years later, my prod­ucts are stocked across the coun­try — and mostly served in the air. I’m not a trained chef or baker; I was a TV pro­ducer and traf­fic man­ager in an ad­ver­tis­ing agency. Now I’m an au­thor of two cook­books and

I work closely with Di­a­betes NSW, ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren and en­tic­ing them to fall in love with great-tast­ing food. I’m also an am­bas­sador for Cuisi­nart Aus­tralia and New Zealand and for In­ter­na­tional Bake­ware Com­pany, as well as a sup­porter of Meat Free Week, Oz Har­vest, the Cake Bake & Sweets Show and many other char­i­ties, events and vo­ca­tions. Most im­por­tantly, I’m a per­sis­tently pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­ual who is on a mis­sion to build a brand that is a house­hold name in Aus­tralia and be­yond.

What Rowie’s Cakes prod­ucts or treats are avail­able on­board? The team at Luke Man­gan have se­lected four gor­geous flavours of Rowie’s Cakes, two of which are ve­gan as well as gluten-and dairy-free. The beauty of th­ese treats is that you don’t have to be in­tol­er­ant or al­ler­gic to de­vour them. How do they dif­fer from other brands on the mar­ket? I think it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the fact I cre­ate prod­ucts that lead and in­no­vate within the cat­e­gory. When cre­at­ing, I think of tone, colour and tex­ture — it’s like look­ing in a choco­late box. I thrive on the pres­sure of in­no­va­tion and its ne­ces­sity in the food in­dus­try. It’s also about that feel­ing you get when you eat some­thing that trans­ports you to a fond mem­ory –

I as­pire to cre­ate that with my recipes and cook­books. How closely do you work with Vir­gin Aus­tralia?

We’ve been build­ing our re­la­tion­ship with the team at Luke Man­gan for some time. Through shar­ing my vi­sion and prod­ucts, and dis­cussing op­por­tu­ni­ties within the group and within Vir­gin Air­lines, we have come up with ideas that com­ple­ment the menu. What are your most pop­u­lar treats? My busi­ness isn’t just cakes; it’s bread, burg­ers, sand­wiches, mousses, break­fast treats, cakes, brown­ies, bick­ies and con­fec­tionery. There’s one or two lead­ing prod­ucts in each cat­e­gory. We’re evolv­ing to be a one-stop meal­so­lu­tions busi­ness.

Do you have a per­sonal favourite? My all-time go-to is Rowie’s creamy soy choco­late co­conut ganache. This gor­geous cake was born when the busi­ness started and has a cult fol­low­ing across the coun­try. Best of all, not only is it out­ra­geously yummy, it’s wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and ve­gan. What‘s next for Rowie’s Cakes? Ex­pan­sion and reach­ing for the sky. I’ve set some spec­tac­u­lar tar­gets for the next 12 months, three years and five years, and I’m plan­ning on reach­ing all of them. I’d love to em­ploy 380 peo­ple and be a house­hold name in Aus­tralia. I’m a great be­liever in chart­ing a course for the fu­ture, cre­at­ing a path to get from A to B. The re­al­ity is you need to be an achiever to do so; that ‘never get there’ headspace isn’t in my vo­cab­u­lary or think­ing. Here’s to ac­com­plish­ment and in­no­va­tion.

FROM TOP Rowie’s choco­late pavlova; Rowie Dil­lon; her to­mato, onion and goat’s cheese tart.

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