Tom Herbert is a fifth-generation baker and director of Hobbs House Bakery, a multi-award-winning craft bakery, based in Gloucestershire
The media attention spotlight has hovered over our world of baking and bread lately. And boy how bright it has shone. After a harsh winter, renewal in the Hobbs House camp came with a theatrical bottom spank in the spring as The Radio Times and its four million readers foretold the interest in real bread, with a double-page highly camp portrait of me at the oven (they wanted me in a vest, so I think I got off lightly).
Then there was the yeasty love-fest on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends with my mate Clive and the delicious Sophie Dahl. Things really looked to be hotting up when the broadsheets made my programme, In Search of a Perfect Loaf, pick of the day.
The bread season started in earnest at that point. To kick it all off, BBC4’s New Yorker in Lyon, Bill Buford, with his program Fat Man in a White Hat, spent an eye-raising morning in a traditional boulangerie. My mind boggled as the obese baker crafted wheaty works of art while blowing his nose on a flimsy handkerchief!
The very next night, on the same channel, the heavyweights of baking were in turn given a 15-minute platform to chart the rise of bread in Bread A Loaf Affair. And the viewer could afford a deeper respect and understanding of our beloved craft as we voyeured the grim nostalgia that was our great grandfather’s lot and learnt of the progress that has been made.
It’s progress too far in my opinion, and more of that timbre came in my programme, as the camera followed me in my romp around the country in search of perfection. Then, before seven days had passed, chef Raymond Blanc had another bite of the cake in his programme on bread. "Ziz iz home, simple, lovely, beautiful!" he burred in his French accent.
Since then, I have had the privilege to play a part in Mary Queen of Shops’ first programme in Mary Portas’ new TV series on BBC2, where she tried her best to help an ailing bakery, in the same week that the story about my Shepherd’s Loaf went bonkers across all media modes.
If you haven’t harnessed the power of the Real Bread renaissance for your bakery, then you are passing up an unmissable opportunity.
It’s not just the media spotlight that has been shining recently. The sunshine in Nailsworth, where we have our bakery/café/bistro, made the cherry blossom appear more vivid and Disneyesque than ever before earlier this year. And customers grinned and squeezed my elbow to say ’well done’ for spreading the word about real bread, but also to congratulate us on the arrival of our beautiful baby.