Kate O'Shea

Kate O’Shea founded Tough Mary’s Bakehouse in Nottingham aged 28. Her artisan baking career was kickstarted by a three-day bread course at The School of Artisan Food.

“Spending three days at the School learning about artisan bread baking made me realise I wanted to be a baker and work with dough every day. I was a keen home baker, but I wanted to build my knowledge and skills to a professional level. Emmanuel, our tutor, was just so enthusiastic. His energy and love for bread was infectious. I learnt so much on the course that I hadn’t found out in books.”

“I decided to look for work and the School’s network was a great place to start. I spent a summer working at the Two Magpies bakery in Suffolk, then I moved on to Forge Bakehouse in Sheffield where I learnt on the job for a year. Both bakeries were set up by former students and they’re full of ex School of Artisan Food people.

“I knew there were no artisan bakeries in Nottingham and felt sure there was a market for one. I was missing my family and friends, so when things fell into place and I had an opportunity to start Tough Mary’s I had to go for it or I would be disappointed in myself.”

Tough Mary’s produces and sells a selection of sourdough breads and sweet and savoury bakes:

“What I love most about running Tough Mary’s is the sense of community. It’s been great getting to know other local business owners and the people who come in. Everyone really wants it to succeed. I also enjoy the freedom to make whatever I want, because I am the boss now! There’s some produce that has been popular since day one which we make daily, but I can be creative and try new things.

“There’s a real satisfaction in producing simple, good food every day rather than sitting at a desk. When I worked in the fashion industry I’d be involved in long projects that never came to anything. I found that depressing. In a bakery every day is a new day and you get to start again, correct your mistakes and build on that. Everyone’s seen the transformation in me. I’m happy now!"

Find out more about Tough Mary's Bakehouse.


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