Not a chef yet, but 13 year old Freya Downie is already an entrepreneur. Prepared to be amazed.
What’s that? The person behind this beautiful product is 13? Really? 13? I think hard, well why not? Freya began her entrepreneurship journey at 6, and has been working towards this for 7 years. Caramel sauce is just the beginning – there’s much more to come.
As I drive into the Downie’s huge dairy farm, I can’t help but notice that this would be a fantastic place to grow up. Safe, quiet, country, with plenty of space to explore and play. Ideal, really. Lucky Freya. With three siblings, Freya had the good fortune to be born in this part of the world, to those parents, and she’s mindful of that.
Family support, particularly in the powerhouse that is Freya’s mother, Rachael, has always been there. And while Rachael helps husband James with the dairy, she follows her own interests and is claiming her own space.
The farmhouse, like many in the area of Tasmania’s Central Highlands, is convict hewn sandstone blocks. History is everywhere, and hard to escape. The rooms have walls over 40 cm thick, and as we settle down to get Freya’s story, I get the feeling that history might be all very well, but this is a modern family carving a living in the modern world.
At 6, Freya received for her birthday a Masterchef Cookbook, hat and apron, and never looked back. The first thing she cooked? Tiramisu! She loves cooking desserts, and had found her passion. The next big task was croquembouche, so she waited to make that for her dad’s birthday. Needless to say, she slayed it.
The genesis of her ‘Thick Caramel Sauce” was another birthday, and a meeting with Alistair Wise (the fabulous Sally Wise’s son), who owns Sweet Envy in North Hobart, and produces cakes and sweets that are works of art. They hit it off, of course, and Alistair was so impressed with Freya that he gave her his recipe for macarons. A huge compliment.
Rachael had to drag her daughter away from the shop, just as Alistair was suggesting Freya try making Dolce de Leche, or thick caramel sauce, mainly because they lived on a dairy farm and have limitless milk. When Freya returned with her first batch a week later, Alistair was ‘blown away’. It’s not often that fans return with a product.
And then the real work began. Freya says, “I looked into starting a business, and decided that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly.”
To get her food licence, the family had to renovate and line the kitchen – not a bad thing, as Rachael adds – and then they hit the stumbling block of the huge production company that actually owns their milk. Freya had been milking since she was 9. To comply with regulations, she had to have her own cow at first, but they pushed on and finally were able to achieve a licence that allowed Freya access to the herd’s milk for her products.
This is history! This grand home, built in 1821, originally a mixed farming property and turned into a dairy in 1963 by Freya’s great grandfather, has just seen a new generation change the world. In a small way, but it’s a big achievement, and the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority now recognizes the importance of small production and new ideas.
Freya’s production wasn’t all smooth sailing though. She had her share of failures, messed up batches, but resilient and brave, she persevered. The cows are a mix of Fresian and Jerseys, and Freya learnt that the butterfat in the milk varies with the season, the grass in the paddock, and the state of the animal. A big learning curve it’s been. That caramel sauce can be temperamental.
Rachael, always busy and with 3 other children as well, decided to step back, and let Freya just ‘get on with it.’ Mind you, there have been times when Freya herself has insisted that mum has to back off, it’s her business. This is one young person who’ll go a long way.
Freya’s working on more products, and a quince paste at the moment. Whatever it becomes, you can bet that the produce it’s all based on is prime. There’s not a lot of places in the world now were the air and water and earth is so clean and clear. And go-getters like Freya? They’re rare too. Aren’t we lucky?
Freya’s Delights / Thick Caramel Sauce – Dulce de Leche / Gretna, Tasmania / Ph: 0447 861 230 / Available at Hill Street Grocers and selected stores / $ / Facebook: @freyasdelights