Credit: Kimberley Low
Before the shop, before the cakes, the soft serves, the sundaes, the pies and the restaurants, there were sneakers.
For Andrew Bowden – the man behind the nom de pâtissier Andy Bowdy, he of the impossible cake – as for many others, it all began in 1993 with the Air Jordan 7 and, as certain love affairs are wont to do, they took on a life of their own from there. You might think that amassing a collection bordering on 200 pairs would be enough to sate the appetite of the Sydney-based chef, but you would be wrong. Because behind each pair is a story, and Andy Bowdy loves a story.
They’re as much an ingredient in his signature desserts (namely the monolithic confections through which he has made his name) as torched stalagmites of meringue or molten beads of salted caramel are. Each has a name tied implicitly to a memory, like those he has of the desserts that came out of his grandmother’s kitchen. You could even say that’s where his saga began, but in reality that’s just the entrée.
Bowden’s origin story is also inseparable from that of Hartsyard, the enduring Americana via Newtown eatery he co-founded in 2012, as the phenomenon of social media dining reached a fever pitch. It was there that he not only met his partner, Maddison Howes, but also cut both his teeth and his first cake: a “kind of horrific” twist on a mojito. Over time, he honed a style that eschewed the prevailing tendency for sterile formality and arcane savoury ingredients, instead opting “a more natural approach to plating” and creating with a nostalgic bent – think Milo in a dessert, as opposed to fennel. It struck a resounding chord.
“The cakes took on a life of their own,” he recalls. “I never intended for them to go the way that they did.” They began selling, aptly enough, like hot cakes and Bowden soon went out on his own, working well into the night on his bespoke creations out of borrowed space in the Gelato Messina factory.
The next chapter hasn’t been without its plot twists, but the payoff promises to be one worthy of a sequel. Howes and Bowden recently opened the doors on their Enmore eatery Saga, named for the Asics Gel Saga sneakers from which they’ve borrowed peachy ‘Flamingo’ pink accents. At Saga, they’ll let them have cake, naturally, but the café will also offer a menu of sensational savoury (and spritz) alternatives. Think sandwiches like The Donnie, named after Bowden’s “landlord/babysitter for the past year and a bit”, of corn and herb crusted chicken schnitzel, passata, Parmesan custard, basil and mozzarella; or daily dessert specials, like a Pumpkin Tarte Tatin of a croissant base, caramelised butternut pumpkin, blood orange, ginger ‘fluff’, sliced pumpkin purée and pepitas.
A happy ending for Bowden, however, will never be his just desserts.
“It will be when I can just log into PayPal and purchase sneakers without Maddison looking at me sideways.”
Tile and cover image: Kimberley Low