A deep knead
IT IS HARD to think it has only been three-and-half months since my girlfriend Laura Moore and I packed our bags, turned our backs on our lives and careers in Bath and arrived on Cunnamore pier in West Cork with the idea of setting up The Firehouse Bakery and Bread School. As we stood there waiting to take the short ferry journey to Heir Island, I think it’s fair to say many people thought we were a little crazy.
Giving up successful jobs and heading back to recession-hit Ireland, while most people were headed for the exit door, you can understand their doubts. Things didn’t improve once I told them my intention was to set up a small bakery and bread school on an island a quarter of a mile off the coast with a permanent population of 27. But there is something special about Heir Island. For the past 10 years Laura’s family home has been there, and before that for many years it was her Dad’s party house . . . if only the walls could talk.
I suppose it wasn’t that radical a move for me as I have never been one to take the simple path. It wasn’t that long ago that, having obtained a degree in corporate law, I choose to swap law books for chefs’ knives. Law degree in hand I signed up for a two-year course in professional cookery at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. Working under Michelin-starred chef Kevin Thornton helped cement the foundations upon which I stand today.
Backpacking my way around the world, on a beach in Fiji my path crossed with Duncan Glendinning, a web designer who was toying with the idea of opening a bakery. After some wining and dining, he had me signed up and we settled on Bath in the UK as a location. Put together on a shoestring budget with everything that we could beg, borrow and steal, The Thoughtful Bread Company was born. It became an award-winning artisan bakery, and together we released our first book Bread Revolution, in March.
But after almost four years, nice as Bath is, it wasn’t home. And if there was going to be a bread revolution in Ireland, I wanted to be at the front of it. The decision was made to return home. Laura and I loaded up our beat-up car and headed for Fishguard.
One of the great things to come from the recession is that people are returning to their butcher and their baker. People are more careful with their money, they expect value, want to know where things are coming from and want to be more self-sufficient. A move away from the reliance on supermarkets is coming.
For far too long we have been subjected to pre-sliced, pre-packed, mass produced excuses for bread. It seems apt that we would make the rebel county home as we aim to establish a “bread revolution” .
Bread at present is need of some serious positive PR. Feeling a little bloated and tired, the finger automatically points to the wheat-based guy in the corner. More and more people are self diagnosing themselves as wheat intolerant, but yet claiming to be fine with spelt. Spelt is wheat. It is simply a more primitive grain, meaning it is softer on your digestive system. In the majority of cases, wheat is not the problem, it is convenience living.