GIVE US OUR DAILY BREAD
PUBLISHED: 13:20 19 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:19 30 August 2017
Baker Tom has shops in Falmouth, Wadebridge and a newly refurbished cafe in Pool, Redruth
Artisan baking has become something of a phenomenon - but it wasn’t always so: CAROL BURNS meets the man who turned our daily bread into something very, very special...
Looking at the Baker Tom empire of four bakeries - including the newly furnished Bakery Café in Pool, it’s hard to imagine it all began with four homemade loaves of bread for sale in a Cornish farm shop.
The loaves were made by Tom Hazzledine, a keen homebaker who was working at the farm shop during his university holidays. Fast forward seven years and Tom has the four bakery shops throughout Cornwall (Falmouth, Wadebridge, Truro and the Bakery Café in Pool) employing 37 people – and a well earned reputation for his wonderful produce. He never went back to university.
I once worked in a supermarket bakery that purposely piped the seductive smells coming from his ovens around the store so shoppers could follow their nose
But he admits, it wasn’t that hard a decision - his degree in computer technology had been a practical decision based on what he thought would best prepare him for the job market I hate computers!’ He laughs as we chat in the Bakery Café which sits somewhat incongruously in the middle of Pool’s industrial estate where his customers are a curious combination of workmen looking for a full English and ladies who lunch looking for a pot of tea and a good slice of cake - as well as those popping in to buy bread and even starter dough to make loaves at home.
Originally from the Midlands, Tom came to Cornwall in 2000. Having left school without any GCSEs, he went to university as a mature student. But it all changed when he took a summer job at a farm shop.
There was nobody doing artisan breads then and they couldn’t find a good baker,’ he remembers. I baked bread all the time at university, so I made four loaves of bread and they sold them, and the next day they asked for eight and then 12 and it’s grow from there. I had to make a decision in the September of whether to go back to university for my final year and I decided to stay.’
My dad was a chef and I have always been in the kitchen, always worked in kitchens. With bread you have four simple ingredients, you mix it, leave it to double in size and it changes into something you can feed a whole family with: there’s a magical element to it; if you add banana and chocolate to it, it becomes desert.’
Of course behind every overnight success story is a long, long slog with hard work. I think the longest I worked was two days straight through - about a 40-hour shift,’ he remembers.
The name Baker Tom harks back to a time when bakers, butchers and greengrocers routinely put their name above the door. It shows you have got pride in your product. Most bakers were probably called after the baker’s name, when there was a baker on every street corner.’
The name Baker Tom harks back to a time when bakers, butchers and greengrocers routinely put their name above the door
The artisan bread movement means interest in the possibilities of our daily loaf is at its height and few smells create such a sense of wellbeing (I once worked in a supermarket bakery that purposely piped the seductive smells coming from his ovens around the store so shoppers could follow their nose). So a trip to Baker Tom’s is a real delight. And it is not only the carefully selected ingredients that make this bread special - it also has much less gluten than commercially produced breads - which uses added gluten to shorten the mixing process. And this means people are rediscovering bread that doesn’t make them bloat. People do come in and say “I can only eat your bread” and that’s why,’ he explains. A good crust helps, because all that chewing helps to create the enzymes you need to digest the gluten.’
Like many artisan food producers, he is passionate about promoting local ingredients. The coffee served is locally sourced, as well as the milk that goes into it. The flour used in his bread is also locally milled. I just wanted to keep it simple at the start,’ he says. Just four key ingredients of bread made at home and made well, and it’s been very much the same all the way through.’ Of course the menu has gotten more complex - with new breads of these month introduced, a walnut and rosemary, cheese and onion among them. In June you’ll find carrot, mustard and thyme in the baskets.
And although there used to a bakery on every street corner, sadly it looks like Cornwall is unlikely to get a Baker Tom on every street. Instead his energies are going into renovating and refreshing each of the shops - as well as increasing his wholesale capacity through new ovens - and of course, spending time with his son, Freddie, who was born earlier this year.