Bangers en masse1 Mar 2011
It’s a fairly safe assumption that most people reading this will have sampled the joys of a Jarrod & Rawlins breakfast, picked up steaks from their deli counter and will have a pack of Rawlins Basic Bangers in their freezer. If you can’t tick all three of those boxes, I’d highly recommend doing so. Sitting in the leafy surroundings of the Damansara branch of J&R, Denis Rawlins reveals a little of his history.
“I started the sausage factory for my father, basically because you couldn’t get decent English sausages in Malaysia. I started making them in 2003 and since then it has snowballed.”
With a Malaysian mother and an English father, Denis spent some of his formative years in the UK and clearly developed a penchant for real English sausages and pies.
“My factories are sausages, burgers and pies,” he explains—his first venture, Rawlins Foods, being non halal and his latest Victoria Crest being strictly halal. Rawlins Foods distribute to concessionaires and supply a number of pubs in KL.
Victoria Crest, being halal, has a larger outreach going direct to supermarkets and hitting a lot more outlets and hotels while gearing up for export too.
Food is not the only passion in Denis’ life. “When I left university I built a boat with my dad and then I was sailing, living on board the boat; sailing around doing odd things in different countries for about ten years. I enjoy sailing. I’ve had the luck of having a few very good friends who’ve given the opportunity to sail and learn a lot about sailing.”
Denis is instantly likeable and immensely modest about his businesses. “I keep my factories quite small,” he explains. “And we’re different, we don’t mince offcuts. We only use prime cuts of meat. In the pork factory I only have prime cuts of pork, no offcuts.
Similarly, in the halal factory— a completely independent establishment—we only have chicken breasts which are steroid free as well, as well as topside and rump beef from Australia and NZ lamb shoulder.” Not only is Denis a businessman he’s clearly a bit of a chef too.
“I buy rusk from the UK, spices from around the world and I make my recipes up. I like cooking, I’m not a great chef but I like it. So I develop the sausages—some of the recipes I get straight off, some take a couple of trials but I get there usually pretty much in the first instance.”
What is also reassuring is that he feels strongly about the healthiness of his products. “I’m fussy about sausages. Even back in the UK I was fussy about sausages, and burgers, so they’re very much tailored to what I like. You can’t please everybody! But I’m trying to make them so you have the health aspect there. I feed my kids them so I don’t want them to be rubbish—no nitrites and all that sort of thing!”
He explains the third string to his bow: the Jarrod & Rawlins pubs/restaurants/delis. They’re not easy to pigeonhole into categories. “I met Jarrod in Finnegan’s. He was in the liquor business and it was all a bit of joke to begin with—we were egged on by our friends who told us they wanted bacon sandwiches!
‘You do the food... you do the wine—just start something,’ they’d said. So we did. It really was supposed to be a deli.” The success of the first year rather took them by storm and from the first outlet in Sri Hartamas they’ve now added Damansara Heights, the Ampwalk and most recently Kota Kinabalu. And there is certainly excitement in the air about further expansion.