What does your job typically entail?
A lot of what I do is what many people running small, independent, local, Real Bread bakeries just don’t have time or wherewithal to do. While they’re busy doing the all-important job of crafting delicious, nutritious, additive-free loaves, I blow their trumpets for them, and point out the reasons people should consider supporting them buy buying their Real Bread.
The flipside is highlighting that not all loaves are created equal, and challenging the obstacles to the rise of Real Bread.
How did you get into the industry?
In November 2008, I went on a week-long course with a baker called Andrew Whitley. This included not just hands-on sessions and baking theory, but also what industrial loaf fabricators, retailers and law-makers could do better and what we can all do about it. At the end, I asked him what I could do to help make a difference, and he told me that he and the charity Sustain were launching the Real Bread Campaign the following week. A few months later, I saw they were looking for a volunteer, so I went along for a chat in my lunch break, then went back to the office and quit my job.
What’s your favourite part of your working day?
The best bits are outside my usual day – meeting Real Bread bakers and feeding off their knowledge and passion for what they do… and, of course, the bread itself. Even better is to see them passing that on, particularly to kids or people having a tougher time than most of us, which is what our Together We Rise initiative is about.
And your least favourite?
When it feels as if I’m banging my head against a brick wall on a part of our Honest Crust Act work. The government simply refusing to accept that current labelling and marketing law is not adequate to protect people from being under-informed or even misled. Retailers saying it would be impractical or impossible to display full ingredients lists for all loaves, belied by them displaying subjective marketing claims instead.
What’s your favourite food and beverage?
Real Bread – c’mon, what else did you expect me to say? – washed down by a cup of builder’s; white, no sugar, thanks. If we’re talking after hours, then probably a curry with red wine or a beer. I am a fan of Toast Ale, what they make and why.
And your least favourite?
Additive-laden industrial, watching my language here… stuff. I try to go for options that genuinely fall in line with one or more of Sustain’s good food values.
What is the biggest factor currently affecting the industry?
Two are the lack of mandatory full ingredient and additive listing for all loaves, and no legal definitions for terms including sourdough, freshly-baked and artisan. These deny shoppers the right to make fully-informed choices about the food they buy, potentially taking sales away from the small bakeries that support more jobs per loaf and help to keep our high streets alive.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone working in the industry?
Do your market research and then go for it! You can start a Real Bread microbakery in your kitchen and if it works, build your business from there.