Posted on October 01, 2014
Sandie Tomlinson, one of our latest graduates from the Advanced Diploma in Baking (2013-14), shares her thoughts on her 'bread journey' .
My journey to The School of Artisan Food probably began, in a way, when I was a little girl... This was partly because I was always around baking growing up (my mum baked for our local butchers and made amazing wedding cakes to earn extra income) and partly because I have always been obsessed with bread! Whenever my grandma bought cream cakes I would always ask if she had a bread roll I could have instead, and if we ever went to a cafe on holiday or stopped at a service station on a car journey the rest of my family would have cake or a treat and I’d always ask for a bread roll and butter! It got to the stage where my mum actually put candles in a loaf of bread for my birthday one year as she knew I’d much prefer a freshly baked loaf of bread to a freshly baked cake! So whilst I initially tried to repress my slightly strange bread-obsession by pursuing a career as a secondary school teacher and then as Operations Director of a training company, my bread addiction finally caught up with me again when I read an article about The School of Artisan Food’s Diploma in Artisan Baking online. I kept my eye on the course for a couple of years until I was finally in a position to be able to afford the time and cost of the course, and I have never looked back.
The school itself is in an incredible setting. Every single day I made my way up the drive to the school I felt extremely lucky that I was getting to learn about something I loved, in a beautiful location, and with an extremely talented (and very patient!) tutor! The course itself provides the perfect balance between the science/background knowledge of the processes in bread making, practical skills and first-hand experience working in bakeries across the country, together with additional minor studies in patisserie and business. The practical side was a bit daunting for everyone to begin with as there seemed like so many things to think about, yet the combination of learning the technical knowledge alongside the practical skills meant that we soon understood what we were doing and why and if something didn’t quite go to plan we could work out why and understand how to rectify it. The range of patisserie products and types of bread covered was incredible and it is only now that I am working in a bakery full time and developing products that I realise how my knowledge of different types of products and the processes involved has become second nature to me. Trips to windmills, industrial roller mills, organic stoneground mills, micro-bakeries and industrial bakeries all served to develop my knowledge and understanding of the baking industry further and helped clarify where I stand in terms of sourcing ingredients for products. One of the overall main highlights for me was also the work placements at artisan bakeries across the country. The experience I gained was invaluable and definitely helped build my confidence in my practical skills as well as clarifying the realities of running a bakery as a business. It has also helped in building a support network which has been incredibly helpful to me in the months since completing the course (thank you Forge Bakehouse and Two Magpies Bakery!!)
In the months since leaving the course I have been helping to set up a new artisan bakery in Farnley Tyas in Yorkshire. It has been a fantastic experience as we have transformed a completely empty agricultural building into a bakery and I have been involved in everything from helping to put display cabinets together and painting walls to bread and patisserie product development and test baking! We opened our doors to the public on 20th September and have had brilliant feedback so far...it has been daunting, exhausting and often very scary but I am indebted to the school for helping me to now be in a position where I love what I do, making lovely bread every day!