What inspired you to launch a gluten-free bakery café?
Tammy: Shane had decided to semi-retire and maybe get a hobby farm in regional Victoria. But the universe just wouldn’t let it happen. Over the Christmas period in 2018 we stopped to reflect on the year and what would be next for us. Just eight weeks later we had signed a lease for the shop. It wasn’t a difficult decision. We figured Shane could do the cooking side and I could do the marketing and front-of-house side. We were inspired by my niece, Ebony, who is a coeliac. Shane was up for a challenge so we thought, ‘Let’s make the bakery gluten-free’. We understand the cross-contamination issues and we were passionate that the baked goods had to taste as good or better than their gluten counterparts. Our baked donuts for example are really different — they’re like a cross between a donut and a cake. They’re one of a kind, something you wouldn’t get in a normal bakery, but something you’d enjoy in a speciality bakery.
What’s your go-to trend to serve up that customers are loving?
Tammy: Our vanilla slice, oven-baked donuts, chocolate eclairs and in-house pies, pastries, and sausage rolls are sell-outs. The chicken avocado wraps and sausage rolls regularly sell out too. After only two weeks we needed new staff and another pastry chef. We had one customer take a whole tray of curry steak pies back on the Spirit of Tasmania to his home after he tasted one. He said that it was the best pie that he’d ever tasted. We started with three pies; we now have 13. The pastry is dairy-free too for those with other intolerances.
What can customers expect from your menu?
Shane: We don’t have a set menu; it changes daily. I create new little inventions all of the time. I focus on fresh baked goods so that there’s so much choice and it’s all gluten-free, from pies and pastries to sandwiches and sweet treats. Normally, people with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance have a tiny selection to choose from, and here we have the whole store. We’ve had people in tears hugging Tammy when they hear that the whole place is gluten-free. We’re just normal people. It’s more than just making money; we’re here to make people feel good.
Is it challenging cooking with gluten-free flours and making sure there’s no cross-contamination?
Shane: We just make sure that we scrutinise every ingredient. We check it all, from cinnamon to dried fruit. Working with gluten-free flours was difficult at the start, but not now. I’ve worked it out. Like everything in life, you work it out. It’s not easy but you do it. I make the best product I can.
What is your style in the kitchen?
Tammy: He doesn’t stop. He’s very hard-working, and he’s a wizard in the kitchen. His style is ‘Shane Style’ and no one else’s. He’s always happy to chat to customers and answer their questions.
Shane: The kitchen is my domain.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Shane: It used to be the gym, but not anymore. My gym’s here. I do like to take my American staffy for 5km walks and watch Collingwood play on the telly next to the open fire.
What do you love most about what you do?
Shane: I like seeing customers happy with my products. When I see a big smile on their faces I know they’re happy with it and that they’ll come back. I also like customers to come and talk to me if there is a problem. It’s not rocket science. When you’ve been in the business so long you know what the customer needs and wants. But going gluten-free was a whole new dynamic. It became interesting. Cooking dairy-free enhanced my skills too. It’s important to understand everyone’s needs these days. I had cooked gluten-free before but never at this capacity.
Any advice for aspiring pastry chefs?
Shane: The sky is the limit. Don’t stop learning. You can never stop learning. You also have to have passion.