From Nottinghamshire to Jordan – baking bread across continents

Kareem Arafat from Jordan’s capital city Amman, attended our Artisan Bread Baking course in 2014, taught by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.  Follow his journey so far…

Little less than two years ago, I attended a baking course at your School. Back then, I was interested in doing a career move, and one thing I was exploring was baking bread!

The mill in nearby city called Madaba, near my parent's farmhouse.

I remember coming back to Jordan all pumped up after taking your baking course, all inspired by the values of real food and artisanal processes that you taught me and that of the people in your School. I clearly remember that black board in the breakfast/lunch room that was titled “our food” and you had spelled out how you see real food.

Of course, Emmanuel and David were amazing teachers. I consider myself so lucky to have been taught the principles of bread making by them. Emmanuel is amazing, and I say so because he not only teaches you how to make bread, but how to feel the dough and have fun making bread, and eventually how to fall in love with bread.

The oven in the farmhouse

When I came back to Amman, I started baking in my home oven and selling it in one of the small farmers market in the city. I used to make 10-15 loaves a week. Then I started reading a lot about brick ovens and actually built one in my parent’s farm house in the basement which was unused.

At the community center in Jabal Al Natheef district of Amman, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. Ladies doing chia seeds coated bread.

Today I bake five days a week, around 1500-1800 loaves a month. I do all the kneading by hand and use wood or gas to heat the oven. I started selling through Whatsapp along with farmers markets, and then, I agreed with a tiny kitchen restaurant in the centre of the city to put my bread. I also supply five restaurants and cafes in the city. It’s been now 16 months selling from the brick oven. And yes, I am totally sleep deprived and have perfected the art of sleeping in 15-minute intervals while the dough relaxes. :)

I use as much as I can local ingredients. My white flour is milled locally, but unfortunately imported most of the time from the US. But I also mix it with locally grown wheat that I buy from farmers near me, and I turn into whole flour in a nearby village mill. Salt is from Dead Sea. I do only two kinds of bread, ciabatta and country sourdough loaf.

In the small kitchenette of the community center, transferring the knowledge of bread making to these ladies.

Now I am thinking to start a bakery and become a licensed business! I am hoping to be able to hire women from poor pockets of the city to empower them economically and socially. Let’s see where this will end up :)

End of the year is a good time to remember the people who were good to us. The School of Artisan Food has been a great place to learn and explore baking. Thank you for being who you are; thank you for the values you bring and the awesome people who mentor.

Love from Amman and keep doing what you do.

Kareem Arafat

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Polly Put The Oven On

One of our new Advanced Diploma students, Polly, is writing up her baking journey in this great blog.

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Companio Bakery on Track

Russell Goodwin, a graduate from the School of Artisan Food has set-up an innovative business model for his delicious artisan products, selling to Manchester commuters. His recent Crowdfunder Campaign helped raise funds to kick start his business – here’s his latest update…

Significant progress has been made at Companio Bakery in the last 7 weeks. Building works including construction of a toilet, decorating and floor painting are all complete. Electricity, plumbing and lighting have all been installed. A large bread oven with four stone decks has been installed and a dough table has generously been donated by the Handmade Bakery.

I did my very first bake from my new bakery premises last week which was tremendously exciting and it feels great at last to be filling the neighbourhood streets with the delightful aroma of freshly baked artisan bread. To start with I am just baking on Tuesdays and Thursdays and selling sourdough breads and savoury danish from my bakery between 12pm and 3pm. I then go on to trade from 4pm to 6pm at Manchester Victoria Train Station on Tuesdays and Salford Central Train Station on Thursdays. Eventually I aim to bake Tuesdays to Fridays inclusive and also run artisan bread-making courses periodically at weekends.

Last Tuesday I traded at the newly re-developed Manchester Victoria Train Station for the first time. The station has undergone a wonderful transformation and Companio Bakery’s market stall is located on the main concourse next to the new Metrolink tram station entrance. Customers were excited and surprised to be able to buy artisan bread on their way home, and people were very complimentary and enthusiastic so it is great to get off to an encouraging start. I continue to trade at Salford Central Train Station on Thursdays where I have developed many loyal customers.

The bakery fit-out and purchase of the deck oven has been made possible through people’s generosity in making Bread Loans. These loans, with interest offered in bread or bread-making courses, have proved hugely popular and this vital community-support has been incredibly heartening and instrumental in getting the bakery up and running. So far £22,000 has been loaned which is amazing so I now only require £8,000 to reach my overall target of £30,000. The main items I still need are a spiral mixer, a large commercial fridge and a pastry dough sheeter for making patisserie. In the meantime, I am continuing to mix my doughs at a temporary kitchen unit in South Manchester but I now drive across the city to my unit in Ancoats where I shape, prove and bake my breads. I hope through meeting new customers in Ancoats and Victoria in the coming weeks that it will not be too long before I get further investments to help reach my target.


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The Grand Feast 2015

Our Grand Feast, led by acclaimed food historian Ivan Day, went down a treat with our guests.

The seven-course feast of Restaurant Soup, Punch à la Romaine, Sorbet, Trout with Leafy Vegetables, Suckling Pig stuffed with Macaroni, Royal Salad and Spongata with Parmesan Ice Cream was delicious and, with Ivan’s commentary on each dish, we were transported back through time to the era of the Grand Tour.





















This unique banquet was organised in partnership with The Harley Gallery.

The Grand Tour reinterprets world class collections through contemporary art across four venues in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It is a partnership between Chatsworth, Derby Museums, The Harley Gallery and Nottingham Contemporary together with Experience Nottinghamshire and Visit Peak District and Derbyshire.

The Grand Tour has been funded as part of the Arts Council England and Visit England’s joint Cultural Destinations programme.

For more information visit The Grand Tour

Read the FishWife’s Kitchen Blog on her experience of The Grand Feast

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Food for Thought Lectures

On the 17th and 18th of May the School held its annual Food for Thought lectures. The 80-seat lecture theatre was jam-packed with delegates who had travelled from all over the country to listen to some of the UK’s top food experts. The presentations and discussions covered some serious and fascinating topics with many points of view and interests emerging.  The opportunity to chat in the breaks and to exchange ideas over lunch was seized by some, whilst others went for head-clearing walks. Everyone agreed that every speaker was engaged with both their subject and the audience in a way that was thoughtful and energising. The pizza at lunch was also rated extremely highly!

The programme:

1) Chris Dee – CEO Booths Supermarkets
Chris talked about the challenges that face a supermarket which not only has to operate in a competitive market but which is committed to supporting small local producers and makers.

2) Ivan Day – Food Historian, scholar, broadcaster, writer and cook
Ivan gave a fascinating illustrated talk about the history of the British pie.

3) Allison Palmer – Bassetlaw Food Bank Co-ordinator
Allison explained the history of our local food bank, how it works, who benefits and how it is staffed by volunteers. She gave practical advice about how to support it and talked not about politics but about human decency.

4) Bee Wilson – Historian and food writer, author of four books and columnist in the Sunday Telegraph
Bee talked about how we learn to eat and, among many other things, the challenges posed to culture and people by convenience foods.

5) Andrew Sharp – Cumbrian butcher, teacher and broadcaster
Andrew demonstrated how to butcher Herdwick mutton and spoke about the precious ecosystem on which these sheep graze and the history of the breed.

6) The Pizza Pilgrims – owners of Pizza Pilgrims restaurants in London
Thom and James told the hilarious and instructive story of their journey to Soho via Naples and Berwick St Market, illuminating the progressive aspects of the street food scene and some do’s and don’ts about food business start-ups.

7) Sheila Dillon – Renowned food journalist and presenter of the Radio 4 Food Programme
Sheila’s topic was Why Bother? She spoke eloquently about people such as Randolph Hodgson and Andrew Whitley who have bothered about access to good food in the UK. Her own campaigns around BSE and food traceability were cited as examples about why it is worth bothering.

8) Andrew Whitley – Baker, teacher,  author and founder of the Real Bread Campaign

Andrew spoke about the state of the bread industry in Scotland and, among other things, how vested interests prevent local sourcing. He laid out a programme for a more sustainable future.

“The choice and breadth of the subjects was a perfect balance and must have taken much thought and preparation.   It was never an indulgent look at ‘wonderful ways with foody ingredients’.   But it did make us think, learn, laugh, marvel and gave us a renewed determination to spread the word and even perhaps get involved in a community project. You looked after us so well.   The food was superb (best quiche I have ever tasted) and all arrangements were beautifully accomplished.” Gill Searle and Cherry Burgess.


Many thanks to Christie’s Fine Art Auctioneers for their sponsorship of Food for Thought.


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Diploma student on track to set-up community-supported artisan bakery

“The idea is to sell to people on their way home at a time of day that suits them – perfect for supper or ideal for breakfast.”

Russell Goodwin is the owner and founder of Companio Bakery – Manchester’s first Community Supported Bakery. It’s an innovative business model where artisan breads, savouries and pastries are baked in the morning and sold later in the day to commuters at train stations as well as from the bakery premises.

Russell studied on the first Advanced Diploma in Baking at the School of Artisan Food, graduating in 2011. Inspired by tutors Emmanuel Hadjiandreou and Wayne Caddy, he went on to gain valuable baking and business experience working for three years as an Artisan Baker and Director of the highly successful Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire – one of the UK’s first community-supported bakeries.

“I’ve created Companio Bakery because I want to provide Manchester with high quality, slow-fermented, healthy and nutritious sourdough breads as well as savoury danish and delicious patisserie – all made by hand using traditional methods and natural ingredients.”  A vital aspect of the business model is about lifestyle. Russell explains, “I love baking real bread but it often means working anti-social hours, however, this model means no working through the night or early starts so my customers get to enjoy quality bread at their convenience and I get to have a life too!”

Russell has already started baking from a temporary kitchen unit in south Manchester from March this year. He is currently driving to Salford Central Train Station and setting up a small market stall but is having a bread bike trailer built to be able to cycle to train stations in the near future. Business has been going extremely well and he has already built up a loyal following of customers who are delighted and surprised to be able to buy quality bread from their station. He aims to start trading from Manchester Victoria train station in July this year.

Russell is currently seeking funds through a Crowdfunder Campaign and hopes to raise £10,000 in 28 days towards the bre
ad bike trailer and getting his permanent bakery premises fitted-out and equipped:

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Food photography

Latest blog from Jo Blogs Jo Bakes who attended our first Introduction to Food Photography course

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From amateur to professional baker

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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Elbow deep in curds

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Hats off to our 2014 Graduates

It has been a busy week at the School of Artisan food, especially after celebrating our fifth birthday at the weekend, but the fast pace isn’t about to slow down now.

It’s graduation day! All hands were on the deck this crisp, yet slightly foggy morning but all the finishing touches are done and the icing is on the cake. Just in time for the first students and their proud families to walk through our door.

There is such a buzz around the school today, the satisfaction of sharing such a memorable day with people we have seen grow and bloom over the past year, is so fulfilling if not a little sad at the same time.

However as the clatter of feet grew louder upstairs and the fight for mirrors got evermore heated, we knew it was nearly time to leave our desks and go and enjoy the ceremony.

The ceremony was a big hit with all our students and their families. The speeches were impressive, funny and inspirational. Joe Piliero, Director at the School gave his thanks to all the tutors who have passed on their valuable knowledge and experience;  Shelia Russell,  Head of Studies praised the graduates for their determination and diligence; Wayne Caddy, Head of Baking, spoke of the high standard of baking achieved throughout the year (and only mentioned baguettes about six times); Yvonne O’Donovan, Head of Business and Enterprise complimented the quality of the business plans each student submitted; and Alison Swan Parente, Chair of Trustees thanked our many sponsors and supporters for their financial assistance.

The School also welcomed Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign, as our presenter and guest speaker. He was extremely amusing, witty and motivating and had us all listening attentively even to his small sales pitch at the end to try and encourage our graduates to join the campaign. Our favourite quote was ‘the people of Britain need to be reminded that bread isn’t just to keep your fingers dry when you are eating a sandwich’

Definitely a big round of applause due for all the speeches and graduates.

It was very enjoyable to see all the parents bursting with pride and scrabbling for their cameras as our graduates collected their certificates. Then it was time for a final last look in the mirror, straighten their caps and then head down for photos…

After all the photos and fun of cap throwing , how better to carry on the celebrations than by going to the Titchfield Library to indulge in a delicious, fresh and hearty banquet put on by our very talented catering team, big thanks there. It was utterly delicious and what a delight it was to be able to enjoy such scrummy food with what you could only describe as a historical view, you felt like royalty looking over the delightful Welbeck Abbey.

All in all, a beautiful day to host our fourth generation of graduates and their families as well as celebrating Joe (our Director’s) 30th Birthday…

Visit our facebook page to view all the photographs

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