HORSHAM'S Bagdad Foods Cafe is a name on plenty of lips, SARAH HUDSON reports
In the 1987 film, Bagdad Cafe, the owner transforms a run-down US roadside cafe with a series of magic tricks
Over in Horsham, Bagdad Foods Cafe, inspired by the movie, has been performing its own magical transformations.
Owners Jude and Greg Barnes may not pull rabbits out of hats, but they have transformed their business with their famed Bagdad Salad Dressing.
The dressing, which was first concocted in 2000 and has now led to three other dressings and a range of chutneys and relishes, has a worldwide following, has been copied by imitators, and is sold in stores throughout Victoria.
"When we first started we made about 14 litres and now we buy bottles in the thousands, I couldn't tell you how much we make now," Jude says.
"I first made it for the cafe, but people kept asking me for the recipe and I thought I won't give it away, I'll start bottling it.
"It's been sent as far as the UK, Denmark and Sweden."
And the requests have not stopped since.
Jude says she was initially surprised by the demand, which she puts down to its sweetness. Its ingredients are vinegar, oil (local, organic, extra virgin Toascano oil), sugar, mustard, garlic and lemon juice.
"It's a unique taste. People say they have tried to copy it at home but they couldn't. I guess it's the way we blend it with different ingredients."
Jude admits the dressing has "taken on a life of its own".
When she first started making it, the couple ran Cafe Bagdad in Horsham, which opened in 1994 but closed in 2004 after they tired of the industry.
But the dressing had become so popular, they needed an outlet to sell it.
Hence Bagdad Foods Cafe, opened in 2007.
"We first called it Bagdad Dressing so people could identify it with the (original) cafe, but one of the reasons we opened this (new) cafe was to promote and sell the dressing."
Their three other dressings include Moroccan, dill and lime, and poppyseed.
Chutneys and relishes vary with seasons, with their core line spicy date chutney, onion and thyme jam, and chilli and capsicum relish.
All their products are sold at markets, including Daylesford, Geelong and Stawell, as well as retail outlets around the state.
The cafe itself sells only food made by Greg and Jude (with the exception of a Turkish pastry).
Jude says part of the success of the business is her work ethic.
"My mum says I was born running. I'm not good at sitting," she says.
"Maybe I'll drop dead over a jam pot but I just love to cook."
Jude says she does not want the dressing business to become so popular she loses control of the product.
"I know I'm a control freak but I believe the people who are going to be most passionate about your product is you," she says.
So certain is Jude of the success of her dressings, that she's staking her future on it.
"The dressings are now our superannuation. I hope they'll eventually provide for us in our old age. That's what we're aiming for," she says.
- Bagdad Foods Cafe, 50C Darlot St, Horsham, ph: (03) 5381 2841