Dustin Bowie-Ford grew up on a farm, where his respect and enthusiasm for great food and produce began. After years of experience in the food industry, he came full circle and developed a passion for creating fresh and exciting takes on the classics – so Box Factory Burgers was born!
Hi Dustin. Have you always lived on the Coffs Coast?
For the most part I have lived in Coffs, with departures to Sydney and Melbourne after some really great opportunities opened up for me.
When did you first realise you had a passion for food?
I don’t know that I could pinpoint a moment in time specifically. I grew up a farm kid, collecting eggs, picking veggies, herding cattle, etc. So, I have had a high respect and enthusiasm for food and produce ingrained in me before I even knew how to cook.
However, I do recall a Year 6 cooking experiment where we had to create something traditional to a culture; I chose a Thai octopus curry, which all the other kids thought was gross, but it ended up being so good, it made me rethink the meat and three veg criteria I had grown up on and got me excited for cooking new things.
How has the journey evolved through the years?
Where can I begin? Started flipping burgers at a small local takeaway shop, which I was super passionate about, being my first real job at the age of 15. That scored me an apprenticeship at a nearby café. This then moved me into the world of fine dining and intricate cuisine, where I spent most of my energies striving to achieve prestigious awards.
Once the thrill of that passed and the egocentric aspect stopped fulfilling me, I found myself moving away from fine dining and wanting to work in gastro style pubs and smoke houses, which was the kind of food I had grown to enjoy eating myself.
Working nights, I would enjoy breakfast as a customer. I got so sick and tired of eating the same boring version of breakfast and lunch that everyone seemed to think was the only way. Bacon and eggs, anyone? Which sent me on my mission to try and bring something fresh and exciting to people’s plates and pop them out of the cycle they had been directed into. This was one of the many motivations behind opening my first business.
What is Box Factory Burgers, and how did this business come about?
Within the menu at my first business, we always had one burger option. However, I noticed that people really held a preference with what burger they liked. When our seasonal menu would change, some people would be stoked for the newbie – others would be sad to see their old favourite go.
I simply gave the people what they wanted … Lots of burgers in the one place – something to suit everyone.
When a space opened up next door to a butcher, a place where I could source my meat, assist another local business with their income, see my product daily, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. Also, there was a need in our community for some growth and economic support, as the IGA supermarket closed and affected other surrounding spaces. The Box Factory has given some much needed life to the strip on Queens St.
What do you think makes the perfect burger?
Burgers are personal. A couple of simple things I like to see in a great burger are texture, flavour, sauce to meat ratio and a perfect steamed bun.
Where do you source your produce?
My meat is 100% grass-fed, and I buy it from Stevie at Woolgoolga’s finest next door; he only sources from quality local and surrounding farms.
My buns are specially designed and made, exclusive to The Box Factory, by Mark at Woopi Bakery. Mark uses quality organic flour, which he purchases locally also.
Ninety per cent of our fruit and veg produce is grown by Darren at New Life Farm, Sapphire Beach. Harvested the day it’s delivered; it doesn’t get any fresher than that!
Box Factory isn’t the only business you run. What is it like running multiple businesses?
Well, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. None of this could happen if it wasn’t for the support of family, friends, staff, the community and most of all, my business partner, Sasha. She offers stability and structure within both businesses and helps me to channel into my creativity to do what I do best. It’s a big team effort from everyone.
How do you keep yourself organised and motivated?
Three things. Communication helps to keep things organised, passion is what motivates me, but what ties it all together is undeniably really good coffee.
What new projects are you working on at the moment?
We definitely have a few things in the pipeline. I won’t give too much away right now, but you may see us popping up on location in Coffs Harbour and Grafton in the near future, as well as at some of the major music festivals on the North Coast.
If you get spare time, what do you like to do?
First and foremost, lots of time with my family and friends. I love to go downhill skateboarding. It helps me to let go of stress, thoughts, fears, tension and gives me a little adrenaline rush to top it all off. I also like to sing in the car by myself, super melodramatic pop songs, when no one else is listening.