• Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Enjoyed helping people here taste delicious European breads

ByRandall B. Phelps

Sep 5, 2022

TELL US ABOUT YOU

am an experienced chef and an artisan baker with a passion for natural sourdough and other specialty breads. I am from Hamburg in Germany. I acquired my culinary skills and my first bases as a chef there before joining Michelin restaurants in rural France to gain experience. I then learned from expert French bakers in restaurants how to master the skills needed to make classic French breads such as brioche and baguettes. I was the executive chef at Heston Blumenthal’s dinner party at the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London. I was also chef at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in London’s Soho, a well-known French restaurant. In Hamburg, I was chef at Plat du Jour, a specialist in French cuisine that is very popular with locals and tourists. I was, moreover, a chef at Ox after arriving in Belfast on a sailboat during the Tall Ships event for the Maritime Festival in 2018.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY?

My day starts early – around 5am – when I prepare the bakery and the range of breads that are my specialty. The bakery is open before nine so people can buy fresh bread, especially our immensely popular sourdough varieties. I bake bread and also enjoy talking to customers who pass by the store throughout the day.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

Layout and equipment of the bakehouse in Bessbrook. I’ve always wanted to own my own artisan bakery and showcase the distinctive breads I loved as a child, especially in Germany, Northern Ireland.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?

I love creating artisan breads for people here. Bread, Brot, is an important part of German cuisine, with the greatest diversity of breads in the world. I grew up with many varieties of artisan breads and loved dark breads, Schwarzbrot, like Pumpernickel, in particular. It is a coarsely ground and particularly tasty rye bread that is traditionally prepared with a sourdough starter. Enjoyed helping people here sample the range of delicious European breads. Comments from villagers and others are extremely encouraging.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?

Running a business, especially in these times of soaring energy and essential ingredient costs. It became very difficult. Building the customer base is another big issue for us and we have reached out by participating in food markets here, like Warrenpoint, and in Dublin.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

Go ahead – from my wife when I pitched my idea for an artisan bakery to her.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SETBACK?

Energy prices, especially electricity, have become a major concern. They are constantly increasing, which complicates the life of a small bakery business. We have to control all our expenses.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PROJECTS/AMBITIONS?

Develop the activity in terms of products and sales of sourdough breads and other artisan breads in Northern Ireland and more particularly in the Republic. I want people to consider my bakery the place to go, especially early in the morning for the freshest, tastiest breads. Our breads have also been sold by Tom and Ollie at St George’s Market and other food markets. In addition to increasing the number of ordinary customers, I want to expand our business with hotel outlets. I already supply a number of restaurants, hotels and cafes in the area.

WHO DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST?

My wife for her patience and unwavering support over the years. She encouraged me to set up the bakery in Bessbrook and supported me in developing the business.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE?

It would have to be my homeland and especially around the Hamburg area. Artisan breads continue to be popular in Germany and other European countries where small bakery traditions have survived. You will still see queues every morning at bakeries in France for freshly baked bread.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD PRODUCT?

Artisan breads, of course. I love to taste new breads from around the world and create my own varieties for shoppers and hospitality outlets here.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?

Spending time with my wife, who is from Botswana, and my two young children is my way of relaxing. I try to spend as much time as possible with them. We try to get into the country around Northern Ireland as much as possible.