Dunn's Bakery - London
Last year I was lucky enough to attend British Society of Baking conference. I had never attended any conferences before as this year is my first year attending ABST! There were many inspring speakers throughout the day and networking time. In fact, I got speaking to Christopher Freeman from Dunn's Bakery. This bakery offers many high end products ranging from celebration cakes to bread and confectionery goods. What I really apprecated was that they use local & fresh ingredients, supporting other independent businesses to create the finest products. It was Christophers grandfather, Robert Freeman, who traveled down from Northamptonshire to London in a hay wagon in 1820. By 1827 Robert opened Dunns Bakery in Crouch End.
Now, I already know what my end goal is, I would love to have my own business one day and Christopher really advised me on the best way possible to go about it. That was when I built up the courage to ask for some experience, I mean if you don't ask you don't get, right? Cut a long story short I was now in contact with Lewis Freeman, current bakery manager at Dunn's and is the SIXTH generation baker, wow! A few emails and phone calls later, I had secured a weeks experience at the bakery. Lewis was really helpful and sorted accommodation out for me with someone who works at the bakery.
My main love in bakery is bread, but my first shift was with the cake decorating department starting at 5:30am. I was nervous going straight into cakes as I have no confidence with creating visually stunning products. I was introduced to Neil who is the cake decorator, the first thing he asked me was if I had any cake decorating experience and all I said was ‘don’t let me pipe’. So he straight away reminded me how to make a piping bag and he spent the first hour with me just teaching me ways of piping. Each time I practiced I got better and better and I was so lucky to have that one on one experience with him. Neil made me feel so much more confident in myself and I learnt so many new skills and now I’m actually pretty good at piping!
As it was Easter week I got the chance to make the chocolate bunnies. Making and using chocolate at University is great for learning but seeing it all done a bigger scale was such an eye opener. Neil said to me "I’ve never trusted anyone else to do the chocolate bunnies so someone at University must be teaching you right" which just shows how important it is that we are learning these skills before going out into the industry.
The main thing I took away from my experience there was that I gained so much more confidence in myself. Going on placements is nerve racking and it’s scary staying in a city you don’t know well but you just have to believe in yourself and have fun! The skills I have learnt are so valuable now and the memories will stay for life.
The one piece of advice I would give to students in a similar position is to take the plunge and ask! After all, we are the up and coming bakers, if you specialise in a particular subject then go experience something you're not confident in. Knowledge is power, never stop learning :).
Thanks for reading, I hope this inspires you to get yourself out there more! I am so looking forward to ABST to network with even more industry experts!
Holly Weeks :)