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Winner: Paul Rhodes, Paul Rhodes Bakery
Paul Rhodes began his career as a chef, and this background spurred him on to developing and baking products for businesses such as five-star hotels, Fortnum & Mason and Google, as well as events including Ascot and Wimbledon.
Based in Greenwich, this mainly wholesale business has grown consistently over the past 15 years and serves about 600 chefs across London. It also has shops in Greenwich and Notting Hill.
“One moment that really stands out from my early days is when chef Pierre Koffmann let me bake my own breads for the first time,” says Rhodes. “I didn’t realise that one day I’d also serve them to Prince Charles.”
All the breads, pastries and cakes are handcrafted.
“I don’t want to be the biggest bakery in London, but I do want to be the best and make sure we’re a choice employer for good bakers to come to learn and develop,” adds Rhodes.
“I love baking and am in the bakery each day. I try to be transparent and ambitious. We are now using a number of heritage grains that are organically grown.”
Paul Rhodes Bakery is also increasingly active on social media, sending newsletters on new products, tweeting, blogging and posting on Instagram.
Finalist: Aidan Chapman, Flint Owl Bakery
Aidan Chapman has worked at Flint Owl in Lewes, Sussex, for 18 months and has played a key role in its progression by helping expand the product range and training new bakers. Flint Owl has recently opened a second shop and café, and it wholesales throughout Sussex.
Previously Chapman was head bread tutor at the River Cottage restaurant and worked at Bread Ahead in London’s Borough Market.
“I’m passionate about using organic and local produce and believe bread should be regarded as a healthy contribution to the daily diet,” he says. “I’ve developed new breads and pastries – for example, vegan burger buns and vegan croissants – while our bread range is ever-evolving with beautiful sourdoughs and focaccias, using seasonal and local produce.”
Chapman’s ambition is to have his own book published, and he also takes pleasure in passing on skills that have been given to him. As a result, Flint Owl is setting up a bakery this month (September), aimed at bakers who want to open their own business doing a paid internship.
Finalist: Aidan Monks, Lovingly Artisan
Aidan Monks’ core values are “simple hard work, a culture of respect and integrity, a deep-seated understanding of the science of breadmaking and a focus on using quality ingredients”.
He was initially inspired by his grandfather, who was a baker in Ambleside in the Lake District, later enhancing his knowledge at the College of Culinary Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, followed by expert mentoring from Grands Moulins de Paris.
His family business, founded in 2010, is located at Plumgarths, just outside Kendal, and comprises a bakery and retail shop there, and at Altrincham in Cheshire. Employing 15 people, Lovingly Artisan supplies wholesale to catering and hotel businesses across the north west.
“I like to use raw milks, ancient heritage grains and double fermentation for our breads,” says Monks. “This understanding of the ancient art of baking is at the heart of all I believe in, all that we do and strive to be.”
A hands-on baker, Monks is now National Toast Ambassador for National Toast Day.