From the early days of Cibo to Africola's kitchen, Dioni Flanagan is a true hospitality lifer, and her latest venture, Lolam Bake Haus, is providing a much desired point of difference to Adelaide’s pastry game.
Introducing Lolam Bake Haus
In the 28 years Dioni Flanagan has been working in Adelaide’s hospitality scene, she’s experienced just about every aspect of the industry imaginable.
Her break came when she got a job working as a pastry chef for the fledgling Cibo restaurant in North Adelaide in ’97, which, soon after her arrival, bloomed into the franchise of espresso bars we know today.
As the work started to resemble a production kitchen – as is necessary for a rapidly expanding empire – Dioni left for the greener pastures of higher-end kitchens. She picked up casual work at Magill Estate and other venues, before heading up the kitchens of Mantra on King William Road, Wine Underground on Pirie Street, then bailing on the city for opportunities in the Fleurieu at Penny’s Hill and The Currant Shed.
Returning to the city once more, Dioni took the opportunity to work with Duncan Welgemoed at Africola, where she was pastry chef up until this year. She has now returned to the Fleurieu, for her most recent venture – and the reason for CityMag’s visit: Lolam Bake Haus.
Even without mentioning her first foray into business ownership – a short-lived bakery in Mount Barker she opened in ’99, which she describes dually as “a really bad experience” that cost her “a shit tonne of money,” and “a good learning experience” – you begin to form a view of Dioni as an interminable force – in cheffing and in business, and it was this self-realisation that led to her opening this wholesale pastry business.
“I’d been doing, in all honesty, 70-75 hours a week, and I decided, if I’m going to do this, I’ll do it for myself,” she says.
“It gave me the push. It’s scary to work those hours, but it’s something you know you can do, and you may as well invest it in your own project.”
Lolam Bake Haus is Dioni’s response to a sameness she saw in pastry products throughout Adelaide’s café scene. Given her background in French and German pastries and the modern techniques she’d developed working in contemporary kitchens, she saw the opportunity to present a strong point of difference – as well as working with the Fleurieu produce of her surrounds.
“My range is quite small to start with because I just want to focus on what I want to use, and go from there and make sure it’s done properly,” she says.
“It goes with what’s in season, so I pretty much go from what’s available in the area… I go with what the product is to start with, and then I base the dish or the pastry around [that].
“Down here there’s Paris Creek butter, there’s great flour as well. I think everything that this area’s got, you can produce a really good product that’s South Australian, as well as Fleurieu.”
CityMag was first introduced to Lolam through Vardon Avenue’s Exchange, where we picked the ugly-delicious wattleseed and mandarin custard butter brioche hank – a twined fried donut, and a most essential Monday morning pick-me-up – out of the equally delectable lineup of pastries – plain and chocolate croissants, apple and Danishes filled with Apple and Willunga walnut, and pumpkin, burnt honey and pepitas.
“I have found when I’ve taken my stuff to people they say ‘Wow, I haven’t seen that before,’” Dioni smiles. “I think people are really liking it.”
As well as keeping things seasonal, Dioni plans to develop Lolam’s offering, including the addition of a vegan range.
“I’m working with people like Shannon [Martinez] from Smith & Daughters, working with her and making sure what I do is [right]. People are more conscious now about what they eat, and if people are going to spend that money, they may as well feel good when they buy it,” she says.
Dioni works through the night and delivers the pastries from McLaren Flat herself first thing in the morning, so we’re careful not to overstay our welcome. On the drive back to the city, the scent of the bakery travels with us. Our next stop: Exchange for a coffee and another croissant.