A happy accident involving overhydrated sourdough led to the creation of the Garlic & Rosemary Deep Pan Focaccia, which was named Britain’s Best Loaf 2024 last month.

British Baker caught up with 4 Eyes Bakery’s head baker Tom Martin to hear the full origin story of his champion bread. We also discover how victory in the event, sponsored by ADM Milling, Bako Group, Brook Food & Bakery Equipment, and Lesaffre UK & Ireland, has attracted a wealth of new customers and generated substantial media coverage for the Chesterfield-based business.

Head baker Tom Martin holds up his trophies from Britain's Best Loaf 2024 with British Baker editor Amy North - British Baker  2100x1400

Source: British Baker

Head baker Tom Martin holds up his Britain’s Best Loaf 2024 and International category winner trophies with British Baker editor Amy North

Four years ago, Martin had been trying to use sourdough to make a natural leavened bread but had mistakenly put too much water in one morning.

“We looked at it and thought we can’t make that into a sourdough because it’s too wet, so I just made it into a focaccia’,” he recalls. “I chucked it into a pan, docked it, and it came out unbelievable. We were like: think we might have something here. It was a genuine mistake that led to something beautiful.”

In 2022, he brought the innovation to his new employers, Stuart Griffin and Matt Rhodes of 4 Eyes Patisserie, who had invited him to head up bread production at their new bakery retail space inside The Batch House – a food & drink hall located at Chesterfield’s 50,000 sq ft mixed-use development, The Glass Yard.

“They instantaneously had a love for it, calling it my standout product,” Martin says, noting that the focaccia has meant a lot to him in the more recent progression of his 18-year-long career.

Britain's Best Loaf 2024 winner  2100x1400

He first developed a passion for baking while working as a teenager at his local Tesco, moving on to amass over a decade’s worth of experience with slow-fermentation processes. “I was at the stage in my career where I was ready to move to the next level, and this was one of the projects that spoke to me,” comments Martin on accepting the 4 Eyes opportunity.

The business was already supplying a patisserie range wholesale and, with demand for its bread products increasing, the company decided in January this year to bring both sides together at one big production unit.

A total of 16 staff including drivers are now employed at the bakery site. Martin has trained up three of them in breadmaking including an apprentice called Ben he says is “one of my best mates, who has stuck with me through thick and thin”. He notes that the owners – two former executive chefs from Liverpool (both bespectacled hence the name) – are “very hands on bosses” and help out at the factory on occasions.

The newly combined wholesale business has been a “huge success” according to Martin, with focaccia and sourdough proving the most popular two bakery products.


“We start at five o’clock in the afternoon and work up to around midnight or one o’clock, load the vans up and the drivers go out, delivering to pubs, restaurants, and hotels that we supply to. We’ve got quite a big delivery area, as far away as Wakefield and over to Newark,” Martin reveals. Focaccia is sold fresh in slabs for caterers to cut up themselves for servings.

Demand for their Garlic & Rosemary variety, made with a mix of Wildfarmed T65 and Marriage’s Manitoba flours along with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt, quickly eclipsed the other flavours and led to them streamlining their range. “We’ve stuck with that one, put it out on mass, and treated it like the king that it is,” expresses Martin.

Boon for business

Entry into Britain’s Best Loaf 2024 marked the first time the baker had participated in any competition. “I think we’re the best sourdough producer in Derbyshire, but to win on our first attempt is quite something,” he says.


The aftermath of claiming the title has been quite something too. 4 Eyes Bakery sent out a record number of focaccia in the following week as wholesale customers clamoured to stock the title-winning product at their foodservice outlets.

Numbers of wholesale customers have also leapt by more than a fifth in the past month, going from 120 up to 145. Among the newcomers is Wentworth Garden Centre in Rotherham, which will have its brand-new deli as well as three on-site restaurants supplied with bread and pastries.

The new winner of Britain’s Best Loaf also grabbed the attention of Wildfarmed. The regeneratively sourced flour supplier has linked 4 Eyes Bakery up with Jane Alty, consultant chef for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, to collaborate on a new breakfast concept and Scandinavian-style grab and go bakery at the chain’s hotels. “[Hilton] wanted to place an onus on the use of regenerative grains, something I am madly passionate about,” notes Martin, adding “this will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest contract to date” for the bakery.

Hilton’s new bakery initiative is to be trialled at its hotel in Sheffield city centre before an expected nationwide rollout by the end of this year.

Stalls with the nationwide market company Craft & Flea are also to continue too. Martin claims 4 Eyes Bakery is “always the headline act” at the events and recently sold out its entire focaccia stock (75 portions) in Newcastle in 55 minutes.

Another firm favourite among consumers, the Cheddar, Jalapeño & Sundried Tomato Sourdough, is to be brought back to market stalls soon, with Martin revealing his team had begun work on product innovations that “no one else has seen before”.

Media spotlight

Instagram pages of both the bakery and the patisserie gained many new followers and received floods of congratulatory messages. “The exposure from the award has helped get our name out there for sure,” acknowledges Tom’s wife Emily Martin, who helps manage their social media channels.

“It’s literally on the verge of greatness, which I’m determined to get them to”

As for press coverage, two separate film crews from the BBC and SWNS have visited the bakery and shot interviews with Tom, BBC Radio Sheffield ran a segment while several local and national newspapers such as The Derbyshire Times and the Express have run feature articles.

These all contributed to the 4 Eyes Bakery & Patisserie website enjoying a 1,780% increase in visitors, with a new click & collect service going live to allow consumers to get hold of the focaccia directly as well as other savoury and sweet products. New documentary-style content is also being produced by local videography firm Marketing Squared to tell the story of the bakery on its website.

Despite clocking in for up to 92 hours per week at the bakery in the build-up to clinching Britain’s Best Loaf, Martin is now understandably “loving every minute” and highly excited as to what the future held for the business. “It’s literally on the verge of greatness, which I’m determined to get them to,” he adds.