Blog » How I became a baker…

How I became a baker…

7th January 2022

The Post: Baker and owner of The Artisan Man

The Post Holder: Jonathan English

The Covid-19 pandemic gave baker Jonathan English the push he needed to make the jump into running his own full-time business. “I believe if you work hard and push your boundaries you can achieve more than you thought possible.”

Give a brief outline of your career to date

I have worked within the catering industry for the past 10 years. My work has taken me from working in home bakeries to hotels and factory bakeries although I also started my own home baking business when I was 18 (alongside my employment), baking cakes for friends and family to raise awareness of my baking skills and my profile. I soon built up a regular customer base who were ordering cakes from me for birthdays, etc annually. I then expanded my own baking business into cafes and coffee carts, providing them with scones and tray-bakes. In early 2021 I decided that it was time to start working for myself full-time. While I was still fulfilling cake orders, I bought myself a shipping container and converted it into my latest business venture, The Artisan Man, which is situated on the main A1 just outside Dromore.

What was your favourite subject at school? 

Looking back my favourite subject was probably art and it has helped in the creativity with which I bake and decorate cakes.

Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?

When I left school I went to South Eastern Regional College in Lisburn and studied Level 2 Hospitality and Catering. After a year there I moved to Belfast Met where I studied Level 2 and Level 3 Patisserie and Confectionery. I was extremely proud to be awarded Student of the Year. I stayed in Belfast and studied Level 2 Bakery after that.

How did you get into your area of work?

It all began at home, helping my mum with the baking and cooking. The love for being in the kitchen encouraged me to do Home Economics at school and I progressed from there.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I always dreamt of owning my own business but I would not have imagined a career in the catering industry. I always had a fascination with lorries and big machinery, so I always wanted to become a lorry driver!

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

No, pretty much anyone can get themselves into the catering industry. As long as you have the drive and passion for learning, you’ll be able to get into the industry no bother.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Yes, drive and passion and the willingness to learn are all you need. Find a good chef or baker and they will take you under their wing and train you up. I believe if you work hard and push your boundaries you can achieve more than you thought possible.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

An eye for detail is a must! Passion for the job, room for the experience of constant learning. Being artistic and creative and not being afraid of the early starts.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The most challenging aspect of the job is the constant 24/7 work. Even though The Artisan Man closes at 4pm, there is always so much work still to be done including paperwork, which has to be kept up-to-date. Though I would tell anyone to take the leap as I have found it to be super rewarding. The best part is the satisfaction of working for myself and providing employment for others. I used all my own recipes for many years in previous jobs so being out on my own has allowed me to take the credit I deserve now for my own recipes.

What does a typical day entail?

I start my day waking up around 4.30am. I start work at home around 5am making scones and sausage rolls. I cook off sausages and bacon for the day. I then pack up everything I need for the container and once everything is baked, I head to the container around 6.30am. I set up the shop and open around 7am. I work the morning shift myself until the first staff member starts at 9am and when they arrive I start my deliveries of scones to cafes and coffee carts that I supply across County Down and Belfast. I then grab any ingredients that I might need for the day and head back to the container. If I need to make tray-bakes, I’ll go home and start them. My tray-bakes recently won a UK Best Taste Award at the Great Taste Awards 2021 so I put my heart and soul into them. My day’s work generally finishes around 5pm.

Why is what you do important?

I’m proud to say that I have created jobs within my local community and since everyone needs to eat, I believe that what I do is important as I feed passing commuters with tasty breakfasts, lunches, snacks and delicious speciality coffees and teas to help them on their journey.

How has Covid-19 impacted on your business/role?

Covid-19 actually kickstarted my idea for the container! I lost my job at the start of March last year and I made the tough decision of jumping into full-time self-employment and working for myself. With people meeting friends outdoors for coffee it was the perfect time for me to develop The Artisan Man.

What adjustments have you had to make?

I have had to change my whole mindset. Not having a full time job and guaranteed income meant I had to really think hard and evaluate everything. I found it tough at the start but I am finding it super rewarding now.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

I’d say go for it! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge. As I’ve said, it’s tough at the start but it will be worth it in the long run. I’ve spoken with many business owners in the past and the one piece of advice they gave me was, start it while you’re young…and that’s what I’ve done.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to do?

If I wasn’t a baker with my own business in the catering industry I wouldn’t be in the industry. I’d say I’d be in something to do with machinery – either driving them or working on them.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Don’t stay somewhere you’re not happy. Put your energy into somewhere you can learn as much as you can.

Describe your ideal day off

My ideal day off would be either relaxing, watching tv or out cleaning my car.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

Knowing exactly what you want, both from your employer and from the job you are applying for.

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