MEET THE LOCALS

Meet the locals: The colourful reign of Chrissy Flanagan, Sydney's Sausage Queen

MY PLACE: Chrissy Flanagan outside her Dulwich Hill business, housed in a former Greek butcher shop. Picture: Geoff Jones
MY PLACE: Chrissy Flanagan outside her Dulwich Hill business, housed in a former Greek butcher shop. Picture: Geoff Jones

Former vegetarian and teetotaller Chrissy Flanagan now makes and serves sausages and beer for a living at her Dulwich Hill Sausage Factory and Sausage Queen Brewing. And the Novocastrian-turned-inner westie couldn't be more at home.

"Sausages are Australia's only street food tradition, and I think the quality is largely neglected in Australia. As soon as I made sausages at home myself, it dawned on me really quickly, even as a rank amateur, how different the result is from most of the sausages you would buy in supermarkets.

As a former vegetarian, I only use beautiful, pristine, certified free-range meat - whole pork shoulders, chicken thighs and lamb shoulders - because I find factory farming absolutely horrific.

Sausages did not figure very prominently in my childhood. I probably haven't eaten a Bunnings or Democracy sausage since I was pre-teen, because I was vegetarian for a very long time, and coming back [to meat eating] I have been very finicky.

ALL OR NOTHING: Chrissy Flanagan with some of her wares inside the Sausage Factory bar and bistro on New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill. Picture: Geoff Jones

ALL OR NOTHING: Chrissy Flanagan with some of her wares inside the Sausage Factory bar and bistro on New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill. Picture: Geoff Jones

In fact, I am very recent to the entire food thing, and only six years into drinking beer at all - so for someone who makes beer and sausages I am very Johnny come lately.

I did not come from a food background, and I really paid no attention to food whatsoever in my life until I lived with my partner of nine years, Jim, and was exposed to new influences because he is very interested in food. He develops all the sausage recipes.

I grew up right next to the beach, at Merewether in Newcastle, but I was a very nerdy choir theatre child so not a natural inhabitant of Newcastle. I would stay at the beach for 15 minutes and want to go home, so Newcastle was completely wasted on me.

Every sausage in the place will be knitted by me, by hand, and who cares how long it takes because if you're planning to be there forever, it is immaterial.

Chrissy Flanagan

The inner west is my natural habitat, and I regret every year of my life that I did not live here; I couldn't conceive of a place that is more suited to me.

It has transformed my entire identity - and I think there is nothing so wonderful in life than to feel like you are in the place you are supposed to be.

We've been in Dulwich Hill for five years now. The Sausage Factory is in an old Greek butcher shop that had closed, and we're trying to make it our forever home.

FOREVER HOME: Chrissy Flanagan inside her Sausage Factory bar and bistro. Picture: Geoff Jones

FOREVER HOME: Chrissy Flanagan inside her Sausage Factory bar and bistro. Picture: Geoff Jones

There are a lot of knitted sausages in the window, and on the walls, and we've built a ceiling rack that's going to have thousands of sausages hanging off it, like places that have the fake grapes, but in this case we're going to have a whole suspended knitted-sausage ceiling.

It takes about a movie to knit one sausage, so it's going to be an extremely long process. People are saying, 'you can use a machine', or 'why don't you get other people to help you', but I'm like, 'no, that would be cheating'. So every sausage in the place will be knitted by me, by hand, and who cares how long it takes because if you're planning to be there forever, it is immaterial.

ONE AT A TIME: Chrissy Flanagan with her window display of knitted sausages.

ONE AT A TIME: Chrissy Flanagan with her window display of knitted sausages.

And I love things you can see coming together - and it is a sort of metaphor for how I feel about the inner west. I don't want it to be just done. I want it to be in constant evolution.

I am a life-long knitter. Particularly when I was studying communications at university in Bathurst when I was a non-drinker, and everybody else was obviously drunk because it's uni, I had a lot of time for knitting. I spent my cold Bathurst years watching Mad Men and knitting jumpers, rugs, scarves - I didn't move on to the food reproduction until the sausage days.

We were horrified when we found out we were both Flanagans and did a very quick family tree comparison, cos it was like, am I in a relationship with my cousin?

Chrissy Flanagan

My career has been in the public service as a government communications advisor so this is a very big contrast to what I have done the majority of my adult life. I quit my job just before the first COVID-19 lockdown to be full-time Sausage Queen. Until then, my colleagues had found it very amusing, but after the initial novelty, they want to know when they can come in for dinner.

People who knew me as a non-drinking vegetarian - people I went to high school and university with - are quite shocked at how I have changed, because it is like a study in contrasts.

STRONG TOGETHER: Business partners Jim and Chrissy, who by coincidence have the same last name.

STRONG TOGETHER: Business partners Jim and Chrissy, who by coincidence have the same last name.

But I think I have always taken anything I was interested in too far - when I was learning flamenco I wanted to be a flamenco dancer; when I was learning pottery I was importing glazes from Greece. I could've made sausages just once and gone, great, that was fun, but given my history, it's not surprising how out of control it got until it became my whole life.

It is a very scary coincidence that Jim and I have the same last name. We met on the internet, back in the RSVP days; we were immediately in a relationship but we didn't know each other's surnames for another week or so and we were horrified when we found out we were both Flanagans and did a very quick family tree comparison, 'cos it was like, am I in a relationship with my cousin? And we look really similar as well. Down the line we did a DNA test - he got 20 per cent Turkish, and I was very jealous. (So we're definitely not related.)

Jim and I bring out the most compulsive side in each other. Neither of us had ever had a business before and now we have the sausage business, the beer business and a record label - Lazy Thinking Records.

We just push each other, and there is no one to say, 'don't you think that is going to be a bit too hard?' Or, 'isn't that an insane or extreme idea?' We both just go, 'that is going to be amazing' and we help on each other's projects. We share everything and make every business decision together - which is probably horribly inefficient, but we're both so invested in everything that all of the businesses do. We have a blackboard in the dining room and sometimes when we are under a lot of pressure, we run an agenda during dinner.

Both of our lives would be absolutely unrecognisable to what they are if we hadn't met each other.

And Jim is as devoted to Dulwich Hill as I am.

Dulwich Hill for me is like the most distilled part of the inner west. It is such a friendly, engaging community. My favourite thing about the Sausage Factory is that tables often get talking to the next table along, whether they know them or not.

A lot of people in the inner west didn't grow up here, and it embraces everyone. People are moving in all the time and we are thrilled to have them, and I think it is an exceptionally open, warm and inviting community, not to mention diverse and exciting. And it's itself, it's not curated.

I just wouldn't want to change a hair on the inner west's head."

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