Earning a Crust - Bakertom bakes natural made breads in Truro, Cornwall
PUBLISHED: 15:15 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013
In this February/March issue, Cornwall Life magazine visits BakerTom, a bread company in Truro that is expanding. Although the company makes all the familiar types of breads there are plenty of new and exciting breads too.
Tucked away in a corner of Pool Industrial Estate, a little building is home to BakerTom, an exciting project that began just over a year ago. In 2006, Thomas Hazzledine realised that there was a real lack of naturally made breads in Cornwall, and so began making bread at home in Truro. "I started cycling to a farmshop, delivering the bread," Tom says. "It was a great start, and the bread quickly became very popular."
Tom hadn't imagined that his life would turn out this way. "My father had a restaurant, so I'd been in a kitchen from a very young age," Tom explains, "but I didn't really want to do that as a living, and so I somehow managed to end up with qualifications in engineering and computers, thinking that was the right thing to do."
However, it was while working in a farm shop as a summer job that he learned about the sad state of the current bread-making industry. Sensing a need for bread, freshly made with good, natural and often organic ingredients, and with no additives, preservatives, emulsifiers or trans-fats, Tom tried out some of his recipes and was delighted when the project paid off.
Business grew very quickly as customers liked the taste of Tom's bread. Having a regular stall at Carnon Downs Produce Market further spread his reputation and now farm shops, health stores and restaurants are eager to sell his products. "I love going to Carnon Downs," says Tom. "People come from far and wide to buy their bread from us and we've built up quite a rapport with some of our regular customers."
The popularity of the bread soon meant that he had to look for larger premises, and so last August, Tom and his small but dedicated team moved to Pool. Here the business is thriving. Tom and an assistant spend the nights cooking the many different types of bread on offer, which are delivered early the next morning. Sarah Gross, whose official title is PR for BakerTom, fields the phone calls, mans the office and helps where needed: she is often found behind a stall or shop counter.
If BakerTom was to have a slogan, it would simply be 'We make bread', although the ingredients used and the breads produced make you think that Tom's own style of bread-making is far from simple!
"Whereas most bakeries may use only four different types of flour, we use 11 including the standard white and wholemeal, as well as malt and rye," continues Tom. "We make white and wholemeal spelt, soda bread and milk loaves, cornbread and ciabatta, and breads flavoured with all kinds of ingredients, from orange and poppyseed to carrot, mustard and thyme. We make different kinds of breads at different times of the year: the tomato and thyme and black olive loaves are made as 'specials' in the winter months. Our new cinnamon and raisin is very popular and we can't make enough of them. And our honey and lavender bread received an award from Taste of the West."
At the back of the bakery is a newly built brick oven where, as Tom explains, they can cook bread "the traditional way, straight on the hot bricks". He is very keen to go back to the basic way of bread-making, and the only machinery used in the bakery is the mixer. The brick oven is wood-fired. "We believe we are the only company to cook bread this way west of Bristol," Tom says.
Having researched the market and roused the interest of companies as diverse as Bustopher Jones Wine Bar in Truro and RAF St Mawgan, as well as many local farm shops, the obvious next step for Tom was to open his own shop. Last December, the BakerTom Bread Shop opened in Truro's Lemon Street Market. It is open for six days a week, "from 8 o'clock in the morning until we sell out!"
Although there are all the familiar types of breads on sale, having a shop allows Tom to expand on the range. He loves creating new and exciting breads: for example, he introduced a 100% rye loaf using sour dough, which joined the cumin and gruyre loaf and garlic foccacia, which he'd brought out earlier, and enjoys the satisfaction of being able to give his customers a product that is as natural and organic as possible.
"Our bread is more expensive than a basic supermarket loaf," explains Tom, "but we think people appreciate the ingredients and flavours, and at our shop we will be on hand to explain the processes and give advice. We must be doing it right, because we have one customer from Yorkshire who comes down here every month for a supply of bread for a hotel!"
All the flavours and ingredients that are added to the bread are sourced locally to cut down on fuel miles, and Tom's next project is to run his delivery van on bio-diesel. "When we deliver bread to restaurants, we will pick up their dirty chip oil and take it to be processed," he explains. "We think everything should be recycled and we are proud that as a company we are doing our bit for the planet."
Having started making bread because he was less than happy with the mass production of the commercial brands, and even though today he seems to have very little leisure time, Tom has absolutely no regrets about turning from the computer room to the kitchen. "It's so exciting when people pay attention to what they're eating and want the best foods available," he concludes. "The empty shelves tell me that they are obviously happy with my bread. They appreciate the naturalness of our product. I don't think what I do is a job. To me, it's not just work - I'm enjoying myself too much!"
BakerTom, Unit Six, Agar Way, Pool Industrial Estate, Redruth TR15 3SF, (01209 218989, www.bakertom.co.uk