An experienced baker will tell you that baking is a constant journey, there is always something you don’t know, something that shouldn’t work that does and there's plenty of excitement along the way.
The pride of nailing a new recipe still gets me buzzing. It’s fantastic every time!
Though, it didn't start out like this...
Initially, I refused the job... “I don’t want to go in there, especially not at those times in the morning,” I said.
“You’ll be alright with the early mornings, you’ll just get used to them. It’s a good challenge, I think you’ll enjoy it.” The HR manager replied.
“I don’t have a choice do i?” I questioned.
“No.” She replied.
And off to the bakery department, I would go, not realising how much that conversation would change my life.
After years working and managing bakeries for a supermarket chain, I began to detach myself from the way we did certain things.
I had an excellent team that could have made those pain de campagne's or sourdough boules that we reheated in the oven, we made most of our bread from scratch, why not the "fancy" stuff too?
At the time, free range chicken, growing your own vegetables and making everything from scratch was fashionable. It was the start of a booming generation of the artisans. I would regularly visit local butchers for meat, top up with fresh vegetables from the local suppliers and even kept chickens for the best quality eggs.
And so I took that approach to my day job.
I wanted to bake bread that could be celebrated, not filled with concentrates sachets of dough improvers. I suppose I just wanted to take a bit of pride in my work, and what I put inside my body.
I tried tirelessly to get some information on artisan bread making online. The best recipes and instructors were French and Italian, I would attempt to follow what they said, I can still remember videos that stood out back then.
I decided that if I was to do this properly, I had to invest in myself.
I had to open a bakery.
A real artisan bakery.
It took a lot of planning and a course at the artisan school of food to get the knowledge and the confidence to do it and a year later, in 2015 I opened Busby's the artisan bakery and cafe.
It surprised me how quickly my reputation for my bread grew. I was getting stopped in the street for praise, invited to attend local entrepreneur meet ups and housing the town mayors charity functions. I couldn't believe it!
Though how the bakery side grew to selling to businesses and market stalls across the county, the cafe sadly didn't. It was pulling the business down. I had invested much of my time in perfecting the bread that the cafe was hemorrhaging money until, I ran out.
I closed the business and loan from my family, I set up a wholesale bakery catering for local businesses and market stalls. Without the overheads of a cafe, I started making money for the first time. It was doing well until a combination of structural problems in the building and an injury halted the business operations.
Again, I had to close the door.
A return to retail management beckoned and it meant at least I had a steady stream of income coming in. It started off ok, to be fair I didn't touch a sack of flour for a year of two.
Then I found myself moving companies and roles every year, trying to discover a company which I was motivated to work for and a role that fulfilled me.
It lead me to constant frustration.
I was still struggling then financial heartache from my business ventures and coming up to christmas time I couldn't afford to buy many presents. So I thought I will have to make them something to give as a gift, maybe a bread?
I raided the cupboards and started making a batch of panettone. Everything came back to me, my passion, my skills and my love for working with dough.
It was fantastic (and the panettone came out pretty good too!).
.... I had to get back to baking bread
It just made sense, I could never forgive myself for not chasing my love. I tried to be a good boy and "fit" in, but that just made me sad, frustrated and searching for a new skill to showcase myself.
I knew, I already had one...
Baking bread just wouldn't go away, I love it, it makes me happy. Just as much as if I'm told how much I've helped someone with their baking or when I've got a table full of dough and two other bins full of the stuff that's about to over-ferment if I don't rush about.
Baking bread gives me a purpose, and I hope it gives you one too. Even if it's just a cheeky sourdough that you've baked for lunch, you've made it. You've delivered it, it's given you a purpose.
That's why I love baking bread, it's so visually pleasing. It's highly rewarding. Challenging.
And it tastes great too!!
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