Mark Bennett has already taken home three Baking Industry Awards in a row, but that hasn’t stopped him setting his sights on a fourth

“To win one Baking Industry Award is a great experience, but to win three was just amazing,” says Patisserie Mark Bennett owner Mark Bennett, who took home the trophies for Baker of the Year in 2014 and The Craft Business Award in 2015.

At the 2016 BIAs he won Speciality Bread Product of the Year for his Jurassic Sourdough. Moulded into the shape of an ammonite fossil, it is made with beer brewed on the Isle of Purbeck, chopped local chillies and cave-aged farmhouse Cheddar, made on Dorchester’s Ashley Chase Estate. Bennett himself hails from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, and says local provenance is key to his business.

He describes himself as extremely competitive, which is the reason he decided to enter again. “I was looking to win three BIAs on the trot to be honest.”

So was he confident of a third win?

“When I was developing the bread and putting it in, I was quite positive – more positive than the last two times in truth,” he says. “But when it came to the night itself and I was looking at my competitors, all the bravado faded away pretty quickly and I thought, ‘I’m not so sure any more!’”

But win he did, and the reason behind that, he thinks, is that the loaf has a story behind it. The recipe was developed for another competition and then tailored specifically with the BIAs in mind. “We tested it on our customers to perfect the recipe,” Bennett says. “But I would never put anything in the shop that I wasn’t already happy with, so it was most of the way there by that stage; it just needed final tweaking.”

’Sourdough needs real skill’

Bennett worked for his family’s bakery business for 29 years before leaving in 2012 to start his own operation – which is when he started using sourdough. “It’s a very natural product; With manufactured ingredients you can produce a perfect loaf each time, but with sourdough you need real skill.”

He says the Jurassic Sourdough recipe is a closely-guarded secret, but that he and two others are in the know. “And my family know where it’s kept at home, just in case.”

Bennett says entering competitions such as the BIAs is key to being at the forefront of the industry. “It’s great publicity. Being able to put up a sign that says you are the best, you can’t buy that, it’s priceless.”

So what does the win mean to him? “Those who were there on the night will recall my look of absolute shock and joy when the win was announced –  it means everything.”

So does he think others should enter too? “Oh God, yes. I’d say to anyone who is thinking about entering that unless you try, you have no idea how well you could do.”

For this year’s awards he’ll be entering the Free-From Bakery Product of the Year category, developing a recipe from scratch. “I haven’t started it yet,” he says. “But don’t worry, I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve.”

Sponsor’s comment

“Mark has a passion for the baking industry and this shines through in his bakery, where he showcases a wide range of speciality breads.

“This includes the Jurassic Sourdough Loaf, which won the Speciality Bread Product of the Year Award at the 2016 Baking Industry Awards in a category that was simply packed full of first-class entries.

“He justifiably continues to experience year-on-year sales growth, which looks set to continue into the future. We wish him all the best.”

Keith Houliston, sales director, British Bakels