Forced to take six weeks off work when she received second- and third-degree burns from a potbelly stove, Rowie Dillon came up with the idea of allergen-free food brand Rowie’s Cakes. Sixteen years later, the gluten-free queen’s culinary delights are now stocked across the country.
Describe your job for us.
I’m not trained as a chef or baker; I was a TV producer and traffic manager in an advertising agency working with huge companies. I got interested in food and now my job isn’t a job; it’s my life. We produce gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast and wheat-free, egg-free and preservative-free cakes, confectionery, bread and sandwiches. It’s a 16-year-old business.
What was the turning point for you?
Realising I was coeliac was a game-changer. Also, being made redundant, which allowed me to open my cake business.
Career highlight so far?
Having Qantas ring to ask me to create and supply a universally-free product for their flights for special meals was pretty cool.
What are your favourite gadgets?
My Spanish flexible scraper and my cold-press juicer; I travel with it.
What do your brainstorming sessions look like?
Oh, I like tone, colour and texture – like looking into a chocolate box. I’m always looking to mix it up, make things pop and retain balance and innovate.
How do you get to know your end users?
Having stalls at lots of markets and also by holding tastings and having a social media presence.
What are you working on now?
A vegan burger that is gluten- and dairy-free for in-flight catering, and a range of cakes for Woolworths cafes. I’ve also got a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut- and soy-free cookbook, The Power of Flour, which has just been released.
What does your week look like?
I work seven days a week. On the weekends, I make lists of things to do for the following week.
What do you do to chill out?
I cook; it’s when I’m at my cathartic best. It’s all about flavour, tone and texture. That’s what I think about and I write the recipes this way.
Are you involved in any community or charity work?
Yes, I do volunteer work for Diabetes Australia and Diabetes NSW educating people about Type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as charity work for the kids at the Sydney Children’s Hospital for kids with cancer and leukaemia.
What do you still want to achieve?
I’d love to employ 380 people and be a household name in Australia. I’d love to have a Rowie’s Cakes product in every kitchen then maybe just retire to France!
Which other businesses do you think are doing interesting things?
The Collette store on Rue Saint-Honoré [in Paris] is doing amazing things with fashion, accessories, make-up and in-store displays.
What would be your ultimate dream?
Have a cake shop with a massive factory, sign, trucks and a big car park out the front and people would queue to buy my products.
This is an extract from Collective Hub Issue 43. Purchase your copy here.
Photography by Sue Stubbs.