Tony Rogers began his career as a baker shortly after leaving school.
As a teenager in Belfast, he followed in the footsteps of his father and ‘served his time’ in McErlain’s on the Glen Road.
It was the start of a life-long passion which would eventually lead him to Ballycastle where he established the hugely popular Tony’s Griddle Goods.
After running his own business in Belfast for 10 years, Tony decided it was a time for a change and even had his eye on retirement. But in his own words, he got fed up and began to look for a new challenge.
His participation on the Council-funded ‘Journey to Market’ programme marked the first step of this process. It is aimed at budding entrepreneurs who want to make the leap into selling their products to the public. Armed with the necessary guidance and support from dedicated mentors, Tony said it put him on ‘the right track’ and he is now a member of Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market and Causeway Speciality Market.
Any thoughts of retirement are now firmly forgotten, with early starts and busy market days dominating Tony’s working week.
“I was up at 4.30am to get started as we have a hectic weekend ahead. With the two markets and the different festivals that are on during the year it does keep us busy,” he said.
Tony is speaking from his home in Ballycastle, where his business is based. He cooks his soda breads, pancakes, slims and potato bread on a large griddle pan to give a distinctive soft finish before they are cooled, wrapped and labelled.
But it’s Tony’s special ingredients which set his him apart, and give his traditional products a modern twist.
His soda bread flavours include bacon and mustard, a subtly spiced piri-piri and a Mediterranean-inspired sundried tomato and basil version which goes perfectly with dipping oils. His pancake line includes tastes of Jaffa Cake and Bounty Bar, chocolate chip and lemon and poppy seed while his curry-flavoured potato bread is recommended for those who may have over indulged the night before.
“I just dreamt the flavours up, tested them and adjusted them until we got them right. People love the different varieties that we offer,” he said.
Tony is helped in the kitchen by his wife Kay. Conveniently, she is a chef by trade so has a keen understanding of flavours and tastes.
Like Tony, she enjoys the camaraderie which comes from being a part of the market.
“You get fantastic support from all the traders and those who do the set-up. The customers are great as well, we have repeat and regular faces who visit us all the time. Pensioners come over and have a chat with us. It might be the only chat they have all day, and I enjoy that side of it,” she said.
Alongside his griddle, Tony’s workspace also includes a set of old fashioned scales complete with weights. In this ever-increasing digital world they provide a glimpse into another way of doing things. “I’m old-school. That’s just the way I was trained,” he said.
While this may be true for his methods, Tony’s range of flavours clearly set him apart from the traditional. “I’ve dreamed up something you just don’t get anywhere else,” he said.
Causeway Speciality Market returns to Coleraine town centre on Saturday 25th November, Saturday 9th December and Saturday 16th December from 9am – 4pm.
Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market will be in Ballymoney on Friday 1st December (11am – 4pm), Ballycastle on Sunday 3rd December (11am – 5pm) and at Roe Valley Speciality Market in Limavady on 16th December (11am – 4pm).