The Farm Shop & Deli Awards’ Baker of the Year shortlist has been announced – British Baker caught up with the finalists ahead of the big day.

As reported last week, Baker of the Year is one of 12 categories at this year’s Farm Shop & Deli Awards, which runs from 18-20 April at the NEC, Birmingham.

The finalists are Bondgate Bakery of Otley, Leeds; Dee Light Bakery of Balham, London; and Hambleton Bakery of Exton, Rutland.

Rob Hill, sales and customer service manager at Hambleton Bakery, said: “We take great pride in our work here at Hambleton Bakery, and so to be recognised for it on a platform that welcomes the very best in the speciality food industry is a great opportunity.

Having won quite a few awards in the past, including Britain’s Best Bakery in 2012, and our master baker, Julian Carter, winning Baker of the Year at the Baking Industry Awards in 2013, we’re hoping to make it a hat-trick in April.

Hambleton has grown from a team of two in 2008, to 97 bakery experts and six shops, catering to more than 130 wholesalers.

Dee Monteleone, owner of Dee Light Bakery, said: “It’s a phenomenal feeling to be a finalist in this year’s awards. I am very proud of my bakers and front-of-house staff, who have formed a reliable team, producing quality food and coffee to the people of Balham.

“It has been a busy year, with opening up my new wholesale site, and my team has been a great support throughout it all.”

Dee Light was set up in 2011, and was Baker of the Year at the Farm Shop & Deli Awards in 2014.  It has its own café, and runs classes in baking and decorating.

Sally Hinchcliffe, co-founder and owner of Bondgate Bakery, said: “We’re really pleased to be shortlisted – it makes all the hard work we’ve put in worthwhile. Baking really is hard work – you have to be passionate about it, so we value the commitment of our team here. This nomination is a great boost.

“Our philosophy is to ensure that our ingredients are of the highest quality. Combining this with ensuring everything is handmade from scratch produces fresh, delicious foods.”

Bondgate Bakery has 15 staff, including five bakers, and operates in both the retail and wholesale channels. Since the business opened as a one-man team 30 years ago, it has expanded its premises and significantly extended the team.

The winner of the award will be announced at the Farm Shop & Deli Show, which runs from 18-20 April at the NEC, Birmingham.