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From amateur to professional baker

Posted on February 10, 2015

Glenn Stephens attended an advanced baking course in December 2012 - a keen amateur but looking for a course to give him a pathway to becoming a professional baker. Read his bread journey here...

I spent 25 years in the City which gave me a great advantage when setting up a food business. For a good part of that time I spent a couple of days a week in the best restaurants that London and the South East had to offer and it developed my sense of what I considered to be outstanding food. I have cooked since the age of 14, lived abroad as my father was in the Army and had many holidays throughout mainland Europe and the US, always searching out the local markets & artisan produce. My main hobby was always to try and recreate the foods, dishes and techniques I had come across and I built up a huge library of high quality cookery and bakery books from chefs and bakers across the globe, which I studied and became quite good at many forms of cookery.

When I considered a move into the food industry I decided on a bakery because it was the most accessible way for consumers to get high quality handmade food and because many local bakeries had been wiped out by industrial bread baking.

I turned up at The School of Artisan Food in December 2012, a keen amateur but looking for a course to give me a pathway to becoming a professional baker. I spent only 3 days at the school but the course was perfect, as we worked within a small bakery environment and spent our time learning old fashioned techniques, shaping by hand, always to create the very highest quality breads. The tutor, Wayne Caddy, then helped me gain work experience by putting me in touch with a great local Bakery, Holtwhites in Enfield. I spent 3 months with Richard and Kate who were very kind to me and let me hone my handshaping skills and understand all their processes.

I then set up a small bakery in my garage and launched ‘Rex Bakery’ in June 2012 at our local Village Day. I baked loads of breads picked up on my bread journey and we sold out despite a ‘monsoon’. That was the beginning of our weekly Saturday morning ‘pop up’, where my wife Caroline, would man a table or sell from the boot of her car to the kids and parents of our local football club, in all weathers. It went so well we bought a shop in our high street in December 2013 and were ready to start as a full-time onsite bakery in April 2014. I now had a baking team of three and we set to work 5 days a week.

Come September, after only 6 months of full-time baking, I entered into the World Bread Awards and I was delighted when we won 7 medals, plus were runner up in one of the categories. It meant the professional baking establishment recognised Rex Bakery were making very high quality breads, as we were one the most decorated bakeries in the entire competition. I felt we had finally arrived.

We now bake 7 days a week and have a great local following. As we grow quite rapidly it is important to me we maintain our standards which are very high quality long fermentation breads and using only organic flour. Our philosophy can be best summed up by our Malt Loaf.

This most British of breads, which provides a historical link between the Baker & Brewer, is firmly entwined in my memory with my Grandparents - Rex and Jean. As a little boy I would always receive a slice smothered in butter when I visited their home. It was therefore important to me to elevate this bread to a healthy Organic Artisan Loaf worthy of their memory, and also to create new food memories for my customers. Three months and 15 versions later, we found our final version and now have that British classic for sale in our Bakery. Rex Bakery is full of products which have a similar story, starting out as someone’s food memory which we then try to recreate and elevate to its highest form.

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