Winner: Alan Pearce
WC Rowe, Penryn, Cornwall
"I live and breathe bakery, and my motivation is always to improve," says Alan Pearce, and it was this enthusiasm and passion for the industry that so impressed the judges.
Pearce served his hands-on four-year apprenticeship at Rowe’s, before becoming a director and eventual MD. Over the past nine years, the originally single-shop business has grown to two bakeries and 18 shops. Its wholesale customers include Tesco (for whose Finest range it makes scones) and Morrisons (to whom it supplies cream teas). Rowe’s pasties are also supplied to Sainsbury’s nationally.
Pearce explains there is a craft element to all products the pasties, for example, are all hand-crimped. "We’ve got the skill level to do it, and everyone takes pride in what we turn out." Personally monitoring the production floor, Pearce purports to sample a scone and a pasty every day!
Finalist: Robert Burns
Burns the Bread, Glastonbury, Somerset
"You’re always learning on this job from staff, other bakers, even your customers," says Robert Burns. "That’s why I love it so much."
Burns has been involved in bakery since he was 10. Although he trained originally to be a mechanic, by 20 he was running a bakery with his parents-in-law. He bought his current business in 1982 as "a tired high street shop" and now owns three shops with a £1.2m turnover. Able to turn his hand to accounts, plumbing and internal communications, he still "adores" handling dough and making bread and pastry.
"I’m happy anywhere in my business," he says. "I’ll dive in and turn out some sausage rolls or decorate some cakes as necessary. Everything about this industry excites me it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning!"
Finalist: Chris Wainwright
Coopland & Son (Scarborough), N Yorks
Chris Wainwright’s bakery credentials are impeccable, having trained at both Thomas Danby and Hollings Colleges and achieved his National Diploma. He managed a three-shop bakery from the age of 19, going on to open his own restaurant and café in Harrogate.
When he joined Cooplands as bakery manager, the firm had eight shops and was planning a new bespoke bakery. Now, Wainwright oversees production, training and new product development across both bakeries, which supply the company’s 75 shops, five cafés and several wholesale customers.
"I’m passionate about this industry both in terms of developing products and people and in baking myself," he says. "I still roll up my sleeves and turn out loaves alongside the best of them!"