Baker of the Year Paul Rhodes on what sets his bakery apart from the crowd, and how his background as a chef has helped shape the business.

Paul Rhodes describes the moment he was crowned Baker of the Year 2018 as simply surreal.

“I wanted to do it for my team but I never really believed it would happen,” he tells British Baker. “It was a huge honour.”

Rhodes and his team had made changes to the business over the previous few years, placing emphasis on sourcing and the provenance of ingredients to identify a range of diverse heritage grains, which Rhodes says creates the best-tasting and most nutritious flour.

He has pushed the use of British-grown wheat and built strong relationships with UK millers and farmers in the process.

“I know some of what we’re doing is unique, we’re pushing boundaries, particularly for a larger-scale bakery,” he says, “but I definitely wasn’t confident I would win.”

Gaining the award signifies to Rhodes that he and his team are heading in the right direction.

“It’s a really nice acknowledgement for my team’s years of hard work. It isn’t an end-goal, but it’s a very nice step on the journey.”

Rhodes, who still independently owns his business 15 years after starting it up, believes the key to running a successful bakery is to remain close to the day-to-day operation.

A chef by trade, he says his time heading up Michelin-starred restaurants and working for other chefs, such as Pierre Koffman, taught him the hands-on ethos he holds now, and has helped him understand what chefs want from a bakery product.

The morning after the Baking Industry Awards (BIAs), Rhodes told his team of his success and planned a huge barbecue to celebrate. “We got London Log Co wood in and built a big fire outside the bakery, where we had slow-cooked lamb shoulders, baba ghanoush and fresh flatbreads on the coals.

“It was so important for me to bring the team together to celebrate this, it was absolutely a group effort.”

The team now uses the BIA winner’s logo in its email signatures and across the Paul Rhodes Bakery website, which Rhodes says allows them to celebrate and feel pride in their work – whichever part of the business they are in.

“Everyone in the business can be proud of this achievement, and it is nice to share it with the team and customers alike,” he says.

Looking forward, the Paul Rhodes Bakery team will maintain its focus on product innovation, and continuing to progress steadily.

“I have no aspirations to be the biggest bakery around, that doesn’t motivate me,” Rhodes concludes.

“I do, however, want to be the best.”

Sponsor’s comment

This is our fifth year judging and sponsoring the Baker of the Year category award, and the quality of entries this year has been top-notch. We had a really tricky decision on our hands to select finalists, let alone the winner!

This year’s champion, Paul Rhodes, produces an amazing product range. His focus on quality is infectious and the drive he has to create an innovative and exquisite range, suited to consumer trends, is admirable.

Paul runs a business excelling in the market, with plans to continue to maintain and grow a strong position within London and the surrounding area.

Ann Wells, group marketing manager, Brook Food