After graduating from Assumption College (Philippines) with Bachelor Mass Communication Advertising and Public Relations Major, I spent about 5 years working for Merck Sharp & Dohme (pharmaceuticals) as a Sales Rep and then Product Specialist. After falling in love with my (now) husband Adam, I relocated to Australia in 2009. At the time I was still interested in continuing to work in the pharmaceutical industry in Australia, but I found it difficult to find the right role here not having “local experience”. It was a blessing in disguise however, as soon after we welcomed our daughter Bella to the world in 2010.
Mother and Daughter at Dovetail on Overend
Both my husband Adam and my daughter Bella are diagnosed coeliacs - which makes them highly sensitive to gluten in their food. Over the years I’ve seen first-hand how challenging it can be dining out as a coeliac, and I came to fully appreciate how much this impacts my family, and thousands of other families every day. This led me to discover my true passion - Baking (something I had never even attempted back in the Philippines). I still remember the first time I baked a gluten free apple pie for my husband, he literally could not hold back the tears of joy – as he never imagined he would be able to enjoy something like this again. That moment changed my life! And from that moment on, I dedicated every spare moment to learning more about gluten free baking, and developing my skills.
In April 2014, my husband and I opened our first café Dovetail on Overend, in the beautiful family-friendly suburb of Norman Park (inner-city Brisbane). With my husband’s expert knowledge of coffee and my gluten free baking, we developed an amazing reputation for quality, our strong focus on friendly and personal customer service, and for using industry best-practice kitchen processes to ensure all our food is safe for coeliacs, vegans, and people with a range of food intolerances and dietary preferences. We’ve been lucky to be featured in numerous publications (newspapers, magazines), on Television, and many online articles. In 2014 and 2015, we were named in the Top 10 Cafes in Australia, and at the same time our house coffee blend (roasted for us by Uncle Joe’s Coffee) was judged the best coffee in Australia in the world's biggest coffee roasting competition Golden Bean. To achieve those results two years in a row was very special and we are very proud of this.
Holding the Golden Bean Trophy
But rather than rest on our laurels, we have always focussed on continual improvement. I completed my Certificate IV in Patisserie to become a fully qualified pastry chef. I’ve completed leadership training by John Maxwell, been mentored by business coaches like Kerwin Rae, and I continue to dedicate time every day to my own self-development. In 2018, I also started as a radio broadcaster on a regular Filipino Programme on local radio station 4EB, which has allowed me to meet amazing people and connect with the Filipino community here in Brisbane.
Rejoice on Radio 4EB
Our café has continued to innovate with our food and dessert menus, and we feature Filipino inspired dishes like Adobo Bowl, and my signature Ube cakes, Ube Pavlova and "Yamington" donuts are probably our most loved desserts. I love being able to share my culture with our local community in this way, it’s very rewarding. We also give back to the community by offering free training and “hands-on” mentoring program for highly motivated applicants who wish to work in a café or as a barista. My husband Adam has personally trained dozens young people from diverse cultural backgrounds (including several from the Philippines), most with no previous experience, and because of the new skills they learned during our training program they were able to find employment. Currently, we are also developing a training program for café/restaurant owners to implement safer food preparation processes to prevent cross-contamination (with gluten-containing ingredients) in their workplace.
With Ambassador Ma Hellen De La Vega and Mr Jovino De La Vega
We continue to be a strong advocate for the coeliac community, both in how we cater for them, and also by engaging online and helping to raise awareness in our industry. Every year, during “Coeliac Awareness Week”, we put extra focus on this by targeting this subject on social media, and it helps newly diagnosed coeliacs discover us, and allows us to share positive messages about this. By using our influence to affect positive change, we know that we can profoundly impact peoples’ lives.
Signature Ube Pavlova Donut
In 2020, we opened our flagship location Dovetail Social, our second location. This allowed us to implement all the ideas and wishes gathered over many years to offer even more to our customers. We believe we have the best all-day brunch menu in Brisbane, and to or knowledge the only 100% Gluten Free High Tea in Australia. Additionally, I showcase my Filipino heritage regularly in our food and desserts. We have hosted several Filipino food events including full Filipino degustations, collaboration with Anthill Fabric Gallery (a Filipino Social Enterprise showcasing Filipino weaves), and a modern Kamayan collaborating with critically-acclaimed US-based celebrity Filipina Chef Yana Gilbuena. I also developed a special Filipino inspired High Tea Menu we called "The Ambassador's High Tea" that we served when hosting the Philippines Ambassador to Australia, the honourable Hellen De La Vega.
Ambassador's High Tea (gluten free)
I am honoured to have been recognised for my achievements on the following occasions:
- 2021 Lord Mayor's Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Year (the first Filipino to win in 15 years)
- 2019 recognised as one of "Today's Filipino Australian Women" by the Philippine Embassy in Australia
- 2018 Qld Filipino Australian Women Achievement Award Winner
Rejoice with Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner
In 2023, I had the pleasure of co-presenting an episode on SBS Food TV Series called “A Taste of the Philippines”, where I prepared my own Mini Ube Pavlovas dessert. I was also delighted to be featured in a book called The Calamansi Story (Filipino Migrants to Australia) that was also published in 2023. This book is very close to my heart as it aims to bring awareness to the valuable contributions of Filipino migrants, especially in the domain of food and beverage, and educate Australians on the possibilities of Filipino produce. In 2023, I am also excited to be returning to the home province of my grandmother in Tagudin Ilocos, in the Philippines and reconnecting with my roots.
SBS Food - Taste of the Philippines
In everything I do, my family is my “why”. It’s what keeps my motivated to constantly develop and challenge myself. Our daughter Bella is a teenager now. I feel that my greatest achievement of all is that I’ve been able to effectively manage both business and family responsibilities, and see my daughter blossom into a beautiful, intelligent, articulate and well-adjusted young lady. She continues to achieve well at school, and her future looks very bright.
The Thomson Family