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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From student to artisan charcutier

Nick Brake completed our Advanced Diploma in Butchery & Charcuterie in 2011/12. He’s recently opened The Rutland Charcuterie Company.  

Well it seems some time ago now that I was making the daily drive up to the School for lectures and practical sessions in the butchery – oh for the student life!  What a great year though.  To have come away not only with my Diploma in Butchery & Charcuterie but with so many contacts is invaluable.  And to have Rich Summers (who taught me on the course) on board to help set up the business and to drive the business forward is incredible.  I feel very lucky.

OK, so we’ve had several delays on our journey to get The Rutland Charcuterie Company up and running – but Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Good things are worth waiting for.  The delays enabled us to concentrate on product development and we now have a seriously delicious range of British Charcuterie – made in Rutland.

We launched the company at the beginning of June – it somehow seemed fitting to launch at The Rutland County Show.  We have had amazing press coverage thanks to our wonderful PR guru Justine.  I’m afraid that age caught up with me before managing to grasp the whole social media thing, but we are very fortunate that Justine takes care of all this and does it so well.  It has become an incredibly important – essential even – part of the business.

We have had a couple of highlights in our short time since launching.  The first was having the opportunity to meet their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall on our stall at a Farmers Market in our local town of Oakham.  Prince Charles chatted and laughed with us for quite some time and it was with surprise and delight that we received a letter from Buckingham Palace thanking us for the goodie bag that we had given him.

And the second is winning a Bursary for BBC Good Food Show in Harrogate next spring (April 10 – 12 2015, do come and see us!).  This is quite amazing – not only that we managed to achieve this being such a fledgling company but that we now have the opportunity to showcase The Rutland Charcuterie Company and our range of products at such a high level.  Something that would most likely have been unattainable for us at the moment.  It is truly an incredible opportunity to have exposure to such a wide audience of food lovers, both consumers and the trade.  It’s great to know that others think that our products are as good as we do!

I would hope that by the time you read this our full website will be live and our on-line shop will be up and running (  Another exciting challenge, and another important milestone reached along this wonderful journey.

Do call in to Rutland Charcuterie HQ if you are ever in the area.  We very much welcome visitors to have a tour and of course a taste.

We hope to see you soon.

Thanks for reading!

Cheers for now, Nick

You’ll find us at:

Oakham Farmers Market in Gaol Street, Oakham, Rutland on the third Saturday of the month 8:30am – 2pm


The Park Market, Newcastle Circus, The Park, Nottingham on the last Sunday of the month 11am – 3pm.

And at various shows and festivals – please check our social media for details

Or why not come and see us and pick up some goodies direct from the cellar door (Friday’s til 5pm, or by appointment at any other time.  Please phone beforehand if you are looking for something specifically). 01572 724655


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A love of bread leads to a new career

Sandie Tomlinson, one of our latest graduates from the Advanced Diploma in Baking (2013-14), shares her thoughts on her ‘bread journey’ .

Final Assessment day for Sandie at the School

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!

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Mary Berry visits The School of Artisan Food

We are basking in Mary Berry’s reflected glory.  Last Thursday BBC 1 aired an episode of ‘Who do You Think You Are?’ in which she discovered that her Great Great Grandfather, Robert Houghton, was a baker. He lived in Norwich and, among other things, supplied bread to the workhouse.

Looking for a venue where Mary Berry could recreate her Great Great Grandfather’s recipes as authentically as possible, the production company came upon the Welbeck Bakehouse, which is located next door to the School.

Mary was given the task of hand moulding and shaping loaves on the huge wooden table and baking in the enormous wood-fired ovens built for the Bakehouse by Alf Armstrong from Cumbria. Around 4.6 million viewers were able to get a glimpse of traditional bread being baked in the School’s courtyard and to see for themselves some of our surroundings.

We were all a bit over-excited about Mary’s visit, bringing out battered old cookbooks for her to sign and getting ridiculously star-struck about the television crew milling about and having some of the School’s famed delicious lunches.  Bakers Richard and Joe (who is a graduate of our one-year diploma course in baking) can be seen helping with the bread production, and are now enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. Congratulations to the Welbeck Bakehouse for one of your moments in the sun; as we say, we are reflecting in neighbourly glory.

You can watch the full episode on BBC iplayer:

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Cooking goes back to school

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits. This month he gives his view on the introduction of cookery classes into primary schools…

From this year it’s going to be compulsory to teach cooking to primary school children as part of the national curriculum.

The thinking behind this is to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables.  Hopefully by giving children this skill they will grow up more healthy by having a better knowledge of cooking techniques, food preparation, the opportunity to try new flavours and also extend this learning by discussing “field to fork” – ie where the food we eat actually comes from.  This could be linked into trips to local farms.  Also, maybe the children could go “foraging” or picking blackberries to make a crumble?

Previously, children had the opportunity to attend cookery classes but sometimes the cost of these could prove prohibitive. The School of Artisan Food ran classes which were excellent and they were free which was a bonus!  It’s fun for children to be able to experiment with food (and make a mess!) with their peers…and of course be encouraged to clear away afterwards!

The cookery teaching in schools could be linked to a core subject eg French or Spanish with the opportunity to make and eat a traditional dish.  This is a fun way to learn the basics of a topic as well as the food aspect…and if they enjoyed it they could take this knowledge home to try for their parents/carers.  Also, if it was linked into healthy eating so that the children think about how much sugar/fat a particular food dish contains, it may encourage more healthy eating and lifestyles as they grow up.

Some of my friends who are at primary school are looking forward to trying out new recipes but some are unsure if the school has good facilities for it to work.

At my secondary school, we now have good cooking facilities, but I do think they could offer more variety to the practical aspects of cooking given the age of the pupils – maybe they are restricted into the requirements of the curriculum? 


Here’s a pic of me and my sister baking when I was little…..I was still messy then!!!!

Best Wishes


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Becoming a Baker

Ian and a selection of some of his breads

It’s been a while since our last post so we thought why not hand over our blog to one of our former students? Ian Waterland it’s all yours…

Continue reading

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Summer favourites

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

As the weather has been so lovely – perfect picnic weather and eating outside, so here’s some of my favourite selection of treats  for eating outdoors:

Crab and Caesar salad sandwich – great served with granary bread or with wraps.

Pork Pie served with a savoury marmalade – eg onion, beetroot – or even traditional pickle!

Our very own local Stichelton cheese with pickles

Salad of roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar glaze

Roast beef with tomato and horseradish served in a baguette

Tortilla chips served with tomato salsa

and finished with very English Strawberries and clotted cream!

To wash it down, how about cloudy lemonade…easy to make if you are feeling dehydrated!

Enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasts!


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