From boss and employee, to mentor and mentee, the long-standing relationship between Daniel Sparrow and Omar Muscat evolved into a friendship that’s risen and expanded over the years.
Now they’ve formed a partnership that’s proving to be a recipe for success.
The two have a strong background in hospitality with more than 40 years’ experience between them. Omar has owned and operated more than eight hospitality businesses over the years and Daniel first joined his team when he was just 15-years-old.
Their new venture has taken them to the country where the pair purchased Little Sutton Bakehouse, previously The Baker at Sutton, in April 2022.
“It will be coming up to 15 years that I’ve known Omar and have been working for him. At the beginning he was my boss and I looked up to him as a role model. As time went by, loyalty and respect grew and we found common interests so we became friends too,” Daniel says.
“I started working in hospitality when I was 15 at Cream Café & Bar in Canberra, a business owned by Omar. I worked there for about five years and worked my way up to head barista and eventually went off to Public (owned by Omar at the time) where I worked as an assistant manager.
“I then helped Omar build, open and run Doubleshot Deakin.
“We shared the same vision and pushed it to become what it is today. I worked there for about seven years before spreading my wings and parting ways with Omar for a bit,” he says.
Daniel then joined Canberra coffee roasters, Redbrick Coffee, where he learned more about the art of coffee, honed his skills as a barista and played a vital role in helping the Redbrick team open their fifth venue, ARC.
“They gave me the opportunity to open ARC at Constitution Place. I was the venue manager and helped build it to what it is today.”
Daniel and Omar’s strong friendship meant the pair kept in regular contact even when Daniel was working at ARC, resulting in them making their next move as a team.
“When you leave a business it can go one way or another. You either part ways or you stay in contact and you cherish the relationship so we kept the relationship outside of work and that’s how the venture started,” Daniel says.
So why a bakery? The stars aligned when Omar recently became a resident of Sutton. He saw the opportunity and knew it was a project he and Daniel had to pursue together.
“My family and I were looking to do a tree change and we saw the bakery at that stage that was coming up for sale and I jumped on it because that’s the best way to be part of a new community, being the heartbeat of a town,” Omar says.
But it wasn’t only the move to Sutton and the foundation of many years of friendship that prompted the two to form a partnership and purchase the bakery.
Omar trained as a pastry chef at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra when he was a teenager.
“I left school when I was 16 and I went to the Hyatt Hotel and became a pastry chef. Then after six years I went overseas and travelled for two and a half years, came back and opened a bar and a café where I worked, and that was my first job outside of the kitchen,” Omar says.
“I worked at The Hyatt in the peak of it and we were doing airline catering for Qantas and I was part of the team that served Clinton at Parliament House.”
Omar has since owned and operated more than eight cafes, restaurants and bars in Canberra, and he now owns three popular venues.
“I’ve got Doubleshot which is hitting ten years, Urban Pantry hitting about thirteen years and Locale Pizzeria hitting about seven years,” he added.
The pair have plans to eventually introduce café-style dining at Little Sutton Bakehouse and provide more of an artisan offering, with the introduction of popular pastries like cruffins.
But as newcomers to a small, tight knit community, they’ve only made small changes at this stage.
“It’s always hard when you take over an existing business because people don’t like change so we had to tread carefully for a little while. We didn’t want to shake the tree too much so we were testing out what people wanted and how they reacted to things,” Daniel says.
Some of the staple range of sourdough, pastries, cakes and pies have undergone a minor makeover and they’ve started introducing some fresh options in the new sandwich bar.
“We have a long-term goal of creating an artisan bakehouse. We’ve added a bit more of a lunch offering like gourmet baguettes and sandwiches, granola, chia puddings and that sort of stuff as well.
“We’re trying to create vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings as well and making the space more welcoming and inviting by delivering coffees to tables and focusing on customer interaction.
“We want to look at doing pizza nights with live music in the future and maybe introducing a coffee cart outside but we want to keep the integrity of the countryside and the area,” he says.
They’ve started building relationships with farmers to source more seasonal and local produce.
“There’s a few farms around us including a truffle farm and we’ve been in touch with some of the farmers about using their produce.
“As much as possible we want to help out the farmers and local community with whatever we can whether it’s using local eggs or whatever it is,” he says.
But their main focus for the immediate future is to continue to create a thriving community environment and to make their customers and staff happy.
“The biggest task for us has been building trust with the local community to reassure them we’re here because we love hospitality and we want to create something for the community,” Daniel says.
With a team of 25 staff, Daniel now wants to pass on what he’s learnt and the way Omar helped shape his career to the younger staff members.
“I’ve taken on how Omar was to me when I was growing up, working in hospitality and being a mentor. Not necessarily being there just for the work purposes but being that person they can lean on if they do need to outside of work as well.
“You can look at the world now and think it’s a bit crazy so having someone that can motivate them and give them a positive outlook on life and I guess help them learn from mistakes I’ve made is a pretty cool thing, especially with the younger generation,” Daniel says.