Although my grandfather ran a bakery, the industry didn’t appeal to me at first, and I joined the RAF when I left school before taking a job as a security guard at Asda in Dudley. A vacancy came up in the bakery department as a trainee baker and I originally took it because it meant working longer hours.
However, I soon realised how much I enjoyed the job and wanted to learn more about the business. After doing the Asda training course, I decided to study bakery and I’m now doing my NVQ Level 3 at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies. When I wasn’t sure where to go, the National Association of Master Bakers gave me the information about courses and were really helpful - I don’t think I’d be where I am now if they hadn’t spoken to them, and I think I might join as a member one day.
I go to college once a week, on one of my days off from the store, and my bakery manager has been really supportive; last year, college was on a Friday, which is a really busy day in the store, but he changed the rotas so I could go. Doing well in the competition has been a good way to say thank you, and both he and my college are really proud of me.
I’m lucky because I like what I do; it doesn’t feel like work and I don’t mind the fact that I only get one day off a week. Last year at college we studied the basics, such as kneading dough, mixing and weighing up, which was useful because at Asda we use sachets of pre-mix to make the bread. So far this year, we’ve learned knife skills and gateaux-making and we’ll also be studying product development, which is even more interesting. I love coming up with new ideas and I’ll often do that in my spare time as there’s no room to do that at work. For the Award [sponsored by British Sugar], I came up with products such as a children’s cake, made with a shortbread base, topped with a sponge and cut in a cone shape, covered with icing.
At Asda, I can be baking bread, baps or cakes, and often help merchandise the shelves. There’s nothing I don’t like about my job - but ask me again in another five years!
A lot of people at college study full-time and some think I’m at a disadvantage as I only go part-time, but actually, I think I’m privileged as I get paid to do a job I enjoy and Asda gives me the chance to learn too - I get the best of both worlds.
When I’m at home, I particularly like making foreign breads; it’s nice to be able to use different ingredients to make products and I think they also taste better. I’ve made bread for friends before, but they don’t seem to appreciate it as much as I do!
It’s really important to get young people interested in bread and baking. I’d also like to see a lot more craft bakers around, in every town and village. It’s got to the stage where most people just go to a supermarket to buy a sliced loaf. There’s a danger that we’re losing all the traditional skills. That’s why my ambition is to have my own craft bakery after a few years - and I’m determined to do that. n