Big name chefs have not been shy to dabble in the baker’s craft. Recent months have seen Jamie Oliver’s name emblazoned across breadmaking gift sets in department stores. Chef Paul Rankin has his own branded bread range. Meanwhile, the likes of Antonio Carluccio continue to preach that good bread should be the essential starter on every dinner table. But bakers and chefs have not always been easy bedfellows, and many bakers understandably find the sight of a non-specialist celebrity chef profiting on their turf a mite galling.Straddling this divide is French baker and chef Richard Bertinet. He says that breaking down the barrier between good food and good bread, by encouraging home baking and better quality breads in Britain’s restaurant and hotel kitchens, would give rise to a more demanding consumer and better breads in the shops.Creating a crossover“I’m sure everyone could name five chefs, but bread has been left behind,” he tells me. “The only way that people will respect bread again is to bring bread and food together – to have good bread in the restaurant, the supermarket and everywhere else.”The bread classes at The Bertinet Kitchen in Bath, which opened in September last year, are certainly aiming to foster this crossover. What is more, they are a real leveller. I attend a class that fields a diverse mix of students. There are wide-eyed amateurs, who talk with a feverish air of nurturing sourdoughs and fresh-faced trainee hotel chefs from as far afield as New Zealand, who are keen to learn how to bake bread the way a proper baker does. There’s even a been-there-done-that Michelin-starred restaurateur, who is reduced to childlike uncertainty when faced with a sticky, stubborn dough.But one thing they all hold in common, amateurs and professionals alike, is a passion for baking. I myself roll up the sleeves of an ill-advised black shirt to try my hands at three doughs. These comprise: a brown dough, made with wholemeal and a bit of white flour, to mould ‘poppy stars’ and sesame plaits; a rye-based dough for making olive bread, using white and rye flour; and a sweet dough for doughnuts and ‘pain Viennois’ – a sweet bread ideal for breakfasts. Richard’s mantra is that one dough should be versatile for creating a multitude of products, breads and shapes. Classes are split into three teams of four. “Just have fun,” he tells the class. “You’ve got to get dirty and really get your hands into it. The only way you can learn about bread is with your hands,” he proclaims.So, leaving the spiral mixers to one side, he shows us a dough stretching method and steers students away from kneading. The dough is stretched out and slammed onto the table, creating a pocket, which traps the air for a much softer bread than by kneading, he says. “If you used a lot of water and made a very tight dough, some people would knead it to get some elasticity into it,” he says. “But when the dough goes to prove it’s got to have strength or it will collapse. This way we just let the natural gluten in the flour do all the work.”French traditionThis is the method Richard has adapted for baking at home, from traditional techniques he learned in France. “In the old days it was the same technique in the bakery – it had to be. A baker working with 8kg of flour, with five mixes a day times a day – his back would probably get broken doing it any other way. And they had no Nurofen in those days.” After baking the breads, an informal question-and-answer session follows, where attendees can put right their baking wrongs. Then a lunch is laid on, for those not already gorged on fantastic breads and the most succulent, deceptively light, pan-fried doughnuts you are likely to sample.It is at lunch that Richard sets out the philosophy behind his project. “Michelin-starred chefs will come in here and they’re like babies – everybody will make the same mistakes,” he tells me with a grin. “That is what is so fantastic about what we did here today.”He continues: “Only a few restaurants make very good bread, but every one of them should. If you’ve got the capacity to do it, then it doesn’t take long. Many chefs can cook but not many can bake. Chefs need confidence in baking. Fresh bread on a table is so inviting – it will get people talking and put them in a good mood.”Richard has been based in the UK since 1988, when he arrived on these shores “basically for girls”. He says: “I came for two weeks – I had a girlfriend at the time in England – and I never left. I love it!” He spent five years as a consultant for French Croissant Co – an English firm based in London that has been supplying supermarkets across the UK for over 40 years. “They are so passionate and they are the best,” he says.Last year saw the release of his first bakery book, Dough – Simple Contemporary Bread, which attracted a glut of press coverage, from local newspapers, lifestyle magazines and even an eight-page spread in a national Sunday supplement.“I’ve always had the book in the back of my head but I wanted to find the right approach,” he explains. “I wanted to catch the imagination, to make it simple, approachable, easy to understand. I didn’t want to mix basic white dough with sourdough, because people think they are clever and go straight for the sourdough. My next book will be about taking people to the next step.”The coverage has fuelled interest in his classes – around two thirds of which are devoted to bread. He also puts the kitchen to wider use, including 45-minute demos, such as how to make a fish pie, that people can fit into a lunch break. Guest chefs, such as Giorgio Locatelli, are also invited along to hold demostration evenings. Many of the classes over the coming months are already full.Has the level of interest taken him by surprise, I ask? “I’m not surprised by the interest in cooking in general,” he replies. “I am amazed by the numbers of people who are fed up with bad food and bad bread. It’s like they’re all trying to come out of their shells. People are fed up of being lied to.”Richard is now very much naturalised and talks passionately about the British baking industry, although his fondness for the country does not dampen his misgivings or spare it from criticism. “The industry is like a dinosaur,” he says. “It is slow to change and it needs a big kick to really wake it up. We are so ahead on so many things here. In this country you can have good fresh milk delivered to your door – you don’t get that in France.” Miracle manHe urges retailers to concentrate on fresh, simple breads, if they are to recapture the public’s imagination. “I once had a brief from a supermarket for a French stick baked at at midnight that would still be fresh at six the next evening,” he recalls. “Sorry, I can’t do that. I’m not Jesus Christ and I can’t do miracles.”And in craft baking he holds little store by improvers, which he believes reduce the element of risk in baking, but at the cost of the baker’s essential skills and simple, wholesome breads. “The word ‘improver’ says it all,” he says. “If you’ve got nothing that needs improving, what do you need to use it for?” If needed, ‘natural’ improvers can be found. For example, if your flour is a bit weak, add some malt flour, he suggests.It is clear that he is passionate about the need to improve skills in the industry. “I would love to see a supermarket open an academy where it could train bakers and get guest bakers along to bring some passion to the in-store bakery,” he says. “Supermarkets need to encourage their bakers to be a bit more free-spirited and inspired. The supermarkets will be there forever so we might as well work with them to get better food.” Companies like La Fornaia and Bakehouse, which supply the supermarkets, are making great products because they are passionate about what they are doing, he adds.Another solution could be independent bakeries operating inside the supermarkets’ space, as happens in some French supermarkets. With the lack of government support for craft bakers in the UK, the responsibility falls to the supermarkets to instigate a sea change. “Wouldn’t it be great to see every in-store bakery run by an independent baker?” he asks. “The supermarkets just need to have the guts to say, ‘Let’s make a stand and change it’.”Richard is doing his part to spread the baking gospel through his classes. But it is clear that until bakery finds its own figureheads, the chefs will continue to make the most of bread. Who knows? Maybe in five years’ time we could see Richard Bertinet breadmaking kits in the shops. The Bertinet Kitchen baking coursesTwo basic bread courses provide an opportunity to learn Richard’s unique method of working the dough. Bread 1 focuses on white and olive doughs, while Bread 2 introduces dark doughs (brown and rye) and sweet dough.For those who have mastered Richard’s technique, The Bertinet Kitchen also runs advanced courses on Regional & Speciality Breads. Also available are masterclasses on Croissant and Viennoiserie, Patisserie, Petits Fours and Pastry.Baking courses start at £90 for a day of breadmaking and include a light lunch. Four-day courses (Bread 1 & 2, Regional and Speciality) are also available for £350.Bread 1: White and olive breads; one day; £90Bread 2: Dark and sweet breads; one day; £90Bread 1 & 2: Book both days together for £160Regional Breads: One day; £105Speciality Breads: One day; £105Regional & speciality: Book both days together for £190Pastry masterclass: One day; £90Croissant and Viennoiserie Masterclass: One day; £150Patisserie and Petits Fours Masterclass: One day; £150Details: Visit www.thebertinetkitchen.com or call 01225 445531
American broadcaster CNN was inspired by the recent visit of American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the north-west to recommend activities for her to enjoy during her stay. It put Accrington-based pie company Holland’s Pies on her proposed itinerary, deciding the company is synonymous with the region. CNN reporters were taken on a tour of the production line, where they witnessed emp-loyees turning out pies and puddings. While they were touring the bakery, 20,000 pies came out of the ovens, contri-buting to the 1,500,000 that are produced by Holland’s every week.Commenting on the visit, Holland’s senior brand manager, Dawn Williams, said: “It seems our reputation is sprea-ding. A full news crew in the factory was pretty unusual, but the CNN team was trying to show Ms Rice the best of the north-west, and there’s nowhere else to start. “Ms Rice didn’t manage to fit us into her whirlwind visit in the end,” she added, “but when she wants the best pies in Britain she’ll know where to come.”
Bakery sales rose 6.1% to £3,438m in 2006, above the average 3.6% growth seen in the grocery sector, according to new data from Information Resources (IRI).IRI, which tracks sales data from the major supermarkets says that bakery sales were worth £3,438m in the 52 weeks to December 30.That compares to an average 3.6% growth across the grocery retailers whose sales were tracked. Sales in the grocery sector were worth £84,743m in 2006, IRI says.In the food sector, fresh fish saw the strongest sales growth, up 11.2% to £1,022m. Frozen food sales fell by 0.3% to £3,765m.
John Waterfield, managing director of Lancashire craft bakery chain Waterfields, scooped the prestigious Baker of the Year prize as British Baker held its spectacular 20th annual Baking Industry Awards this week.The James Bond-themed event, hosted by actress Joanna Lumley, took place on Monday, 17 September, at the five-star Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, in London.Waterfield was awarded Vandemoortele’s prize in recognition of his talent, dynamism and sustained commitment to the highest standards of quality at his Lancashire-based business. The business also picked up the Rank Hovis-sponsored Craft Bakery Award.”We were up against two very good businesses each time and I can’t say I was confident of winning because of that,” said Waterfield,”so we’re really pleased. The industry is very different now from 10 years ago and we’re trying to evolve to encourage younger people in.”Other winners included the rapidly-expanding Maple Leaf Bakery UK, which was named Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year, beating off competition from finalists pudding company Farmhouse Fare and Ginsters in the ADM-sponsored category.Marketing and strategy director Guy Hall, who picked up the prize, commented: “I am utterly deligh-ted. We really feel we have arrived on the bakery scene now.”Bakery Supplier of the Year, sponsored by Sainsbury’s, went to Bells of Lazonby. Michael Bell commented: “For Bells to have won the Bakery Supplier of the Year category is a terrific accolade for all our staff because our people are our business.”In the battle of the supermarket in-store bakeries, sponsored by Délifrance, Asda’s Boldon store in Tyne & Wear emerged the best in the UK, with Sainsbury’s London Colney store in Hertfordshire, Tesco in Meltham Lane, Chesterfield and Halfway Morrisons in Sheffield highly commended. Ian Dobbie, MD of Délifrance, said: “I was very impressed by the standards of entry and particularly the finalists. It was a fantastic evening and we are delighted to be a major sponsor.”Neil McGill, bakery development director of Asda, said: “I am absolutely thrilled at Asda winning. It is even better than kissing Joanna Lumley when presenting our own Marketing Award – and kissing her takes some beating!”Some 900 guests from across the industry saw Stamp Collection Foods win the Healthy Bakery Concept of the Year, sponsored by Tesco. Katharine Hodgkinson, of Stamp Collection, said: “We are so excited to have won. It’s a great boost for us and for all people with food intolerances.”The Customer Focus Award, sponsored by BakeMark UK, went to Cuisine de France for work with holiday park company Bourne Leisure on its retail offer. John Lindsay, business unit director and country manager of BakeMark UK said: “We notice the quality of entries getting better each year. It’s a vibrant and heady atmosphere at the awards and a fantastic occasion for the industry.”Meanwhile, the British Baker Special Award for Services to the Industry went to John Gillespie, who recently retired from ingre- dients supplier Macphie.New categories this year were Patissier of the Year, sponsored by Puratos, which went to Ernst Bachmann of Bachmann’s Patisserie in Surrey. He said: “This award will really create ripples. We only have one shop, but when you win, lots of people come to you for advice.”And the Food-to-Go Innovation Award, sponsored by Christian Salvesen, went to Monty’s Bakehouse, Kent.Rickmansworth’s Cinnamon Square, a fledgling bakery-cum-training academy triumphed twice, winning Rich Products’ Skills Achievement Award and the Asda-sponsored Marketing Award.”The Marketing Award was great to win because we were up against two very well-established companies and we’re not even two years old yet,” said owner Paul Barker.Terry Tang, of Terry Tang designer cakes, winner of the Renshaw-sponsored Celebration Cake Maker of the Year, said: “We’re a small family business, so this award means a lot to us. We’re going to put the trophy in the shop and the certificate on the wall so that all our customers can see.”l For a full report, see pgs 15-22.
National Craft Bakers’ Week is fast approaching, so make sure you get involved and promote your business. Running from 8-13 June, the aim of the week is to raise the profile of independent craft bakers – ’The Shop That Never Sleeps’ – and, in doing so, capture increased spend from consumers.The activity is spearheaded by the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) and has been developed with a group of key industry players: Bako, Bakels, BakeMark, BFP Wholesale, British Baker magazine, California Raisins, Macphie, Marriage’s, Puratos, The Reynard Group and The Scottish Association of Master Bakers.Craft bakeries of all sizes and location are encouraged to take part in the week, which promotes the important commercial and social role that craft bakers have in their local communities.For more information, as well as downloadable point-of-sale material, visit bakeryinfo.co.uk.
Colleges are enrolling bumper student numbers on to bakery courses this year, with admissions up between 9% and a staggering 160%.City of Liverpool Community College reports a 25% rise, with 50 students on year one VRQ Level 3 Diploma Food Manufacture and 38 students on year two VRQ Level 3 Diploma and more on a waiting list.Bakery co-ordinator Eve Cottrell said: “There’s a greater interest in baking and we’re seeing an increased number of school-leavers, while mature students are those looking for a career change or have been affected by the credit crunch.”Tameside College of Technology in Manchester has seen a slight increase in numbers, up from 22 to 24 on its Bakery NVQ Level 1 and from 20 to 28 on the Level 1 in cake decoration, while Blackpool & The Fylde College reported a steady rise in numbers, with 29 students on bakery courses last year and 34 this year.University College Birmingham is enjoying the best enrol-ment it has seen for years, with 73 full-time students (Levels 1 2 and 3) and 41 on part-time courses all doing a Food Manufacture (Bakery) qualification.David Mizon teaches at The Sheffield College, where numbers on the bakery course have risen from 10 to 26 this year, with a 50:50 split between school-leavers and post-19 students. “While colleges themselves haven’t done that much promotion, there has been more about bakery in the media and the Hairy Bakers have also helped raise its profile,” he said. “Bakery has also benefited as people are being encouraged by job centres to train.”However, there is one exception as only nine students are doing a VRQ course at Brooklands College down from 35 last year and 60 who did NVQs in 2006.Tutor Jane Hatton said low numbers in the last two years were due to the college deciding to cut bakery out of the curriculum for catering students. “Last year they allowed us to run a sugarcraft VRQ as well, but this year they have not allowed us to do this. Students now on a full-time programme are only in two days a week.”
Aspin to the rescueSouth Shields firm JW Rae Bakers has been rescued from liquidation by Sunderland-based Monument Foods. Aspin Bakery, a division of Monument, has acquired the business, saving 16 jobs. Following the acquisition Aspin Bakery will move into new premises in South Shields and plans to expand its product range to include cakes and pies, in addition to its existing portfolio of breads.Bagel boostMaple Leaf Bakery UK has invested in its New York Bakery Co bagels, with the launch of the biggest on-pack promotion in the brand’s history. There will be a New York weekend break give-away, which will run on packs of its plain and cinnamon & raisin bagel varieties from the beginning of November for eight weeks, with 250 prize trips up for offer. A major TV advertising campaign will run alongside the launch, with a 30-second commercial on ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5.Vegware investmentEco packaging company Vegware has struck an investment deal with Bradenham Partners, which will now hold a 20% stake in Vegware, enabling it to fund growth and further product development, said Vegware founder Joe Frankel. Vegware produces items such as sandwich wedges and coffee cups.Joined-up thinkingWerner & Pfleiderer has sealed a joint venture deal with Rinc Europe, combining the firms’ knowledge of bakery technology with laminating and dough processing technology. Under the new name of WP Laminating, the firm hopes to develop unique laminating concepts and production solutions for bread, confectionery and pastry products.
Wales-to-London linkArtisan miller Bacheldre Watermill in Powys has linked with craft baker The Bread Factory in Hendon, London, to develop a range of sourdough breads. The initial range, just launched, will use its Strong 100% Wholemeal, its Oak Smoked Malted Blend and its Malted 5 Seed flours. The bread is aimed at food halls, delis and restaurants around London.Benn visit to PremierUK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hilary Benn MP recently visited Premier Foods in High Wycombe as part of his regional visit to the south east. He was given a tour of the bakery development plant at Premier Foods to learn more about the change Hovis has made to UK wheat sourcing.Prize for DicksonsDicksons, the north-east butcher and meat product manufacturer, has been named ’Best UK Family Business, Northern England and the Midlands Region’, in the Coutts Prize for Family Business 2009/10. The firm, which produces a wide range of pies and pastries for several multiples, will go on to compete in the national finals.Oil change on cakesThe effect of substituting olive oil for margarine on the quality of Madeira cakes is the subject of a new study from Aristotle University in Greece. The olive oil increased batter density and cake volume, while decreasing weight loss during baking.Thumbs-up for pieClayton Park Bakery’s ’Scouse Pie’, developed for Liverpool FC fans, has been named as best pie on Sky’s Soccer AM. Sky Sports’ Soccerette, Amy-Louise Moore, who was on a mission to try 92 pies at all 92 League Clubs, said the pie was “amazing, sizeable and great value for money”.
Greggs plans to ramp up its capital expenditure programme in 2010, investing £15-20m more than last year on opening new shops, refits and upgrading its central bakeries.The bakery chain has budgeted capital expenditure of between £45-£50m for the year as it starts to implement its plan of adding a further 600 outlets to its current portfolio of 1,400 shops over the next 5-10 years. This compares to expenditure of £30m last year. According to Greggs’ preliminary results for the 53 weeks ending 2 January 2010, the company made a pre-tax profit of £48.8m, up 8% on the previous year. Sales were up by 4.8% to £658m, with like-for-like sales up 0.8%.In the 10 weeks to March 2010, total sales increased by 2.8%, with like-for-like sales up 0.8%. Funds will be spent on opening 50-60 new stores in 2010 and refitting around 120 existing stores. Work will also begin in the second half of the year on new replacement bakeries in Penrith and Newcastle, and securing a site for a new bakery in the South.
Many businesses get fire alarm testing wrong. Some assume it is too specialist to do in-house and spend money unnecessarily, while others delegate the job, without giving proper instructions. Although it is quite an easy job for staff to undertake, it needs to be done correctly, as making mistakes could create serious fire risks. What’s more, if staff make errors which lead to unnecessary building evacuation or fire service attendance, the costs can be significant.Fortunately, with some simple instructions, all of these concerns can be easily resolved and that’s where our new document will help.How to use itYou can use the instructions as they stand to remind staff of the proper testing procedure or, if you prefer, you can adapt them to create your own site-specific procedure. The individuals you assign to the testing job will need to be familiar with the basic operation of the fire alarm system for example, how to switch it on and off, understanding the panel and so on.Note: weekly testing should be supplemented with routine servicing by a specialist fire alarm engineer. This should take place at least every six months.Introduction and purposeYour procedure should begin with a short introduction, which explains that the fire alarm should, “be tested on a weekly basis, by activating a different call point each time in rotation until all have been tested”. This ensures compliance with legal requirements.The second section of the procedure should outline the purpose of the test. “The employee undertaking the test must be aware of the purpose in order that they can make the appropriate checks.”The types of checks to be made during the test will vary, depending on the individual workplace, so we have outlined the most common of these scenarios:l Testing the ability of the alarm panel to receive a signall Checking the audibility of the alarm throughout the company’s premisesl Checking that other devices are triggered by the operation of the alarm, as necessary for example, security locks released, deaf pagers and beacons working.Test procedureThe final part of the procedure should describe the step-by-step sequence for staff to follow, including:l Having the necessary keys or codes for cancelling the alarml Where applicable, notifying the alarm receiving centre and staff/visitorsl Activating the selected call point using the appropriate triggering devicel Allowing the alarm to sound for no more than one minute and completing the checks requiredl Making a record of the outcomel Arranging for repairs as needed.