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Breaking Bread With Star Baker Richard Bertinet

Toast talks bread with star baker, chef, teacher, bakery owner and multiple-book author Richard Bertinet

Star baker, chef, teacher, bakery owner and multiple-book author Richard Bertinet tells Toast.Life more about his world-famous bread, his award-winning cookery school and how he likes to entertain, as well as the recipe for his show-stopping sourdough summer pudding.



Fewer smells are more welcoming, or more mouth-watering, than that of freshly baked bread, wafting down the hallway as your guests arrive. Equally, what could be more delicious than a homemade loaf, presented to the table whilst it’s still warm? Carb dodgers you might want to look away now – we’re about to delve in to the delicious world of baking with renowned baker and celebrity chef Richard Bertinet who, when he’s not busy appearing on Saturday Kitchen or An Extra Slice, runs the highly-acclaimed Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School and Bertinet Bakery - of which they are now 2 - all in the beautiful, historic city of Bath.  

“I always knew I would be a baker. Baking fascinated me since I was a child” Richard recalls.

“I remember peering over the counter at my local bakery to get a glimpse inside the ovens and to see the bakers at work. But did I think I would end up in the UK? Or with my bread in a national supermarket – no, never!”

 Richard Bertinet Baking By Pixie App

Richard, like many good bakers, originates from Brittany in north west France, and trained as a baker from the age of just 14. After working at various bakeries in his native Brittany and in The Alps, Richard moved to the UK in the late 1980s and found himself in the prestigious kitchens of Chewton Glen, Rhinefield House, and the Silver Plough at Pitton, which in 1990 was awarded the Egon Ronay Pub of the Year and American Express Magazine’s UK Pub of the Year.

“I wasn’t very good at school” Richard confesses.

“We think now I am probably dyslexic but in the 1970s in France no one would have ever heard of that term, so I was just told I was stupid. When I came to the UK there wasn’t much of a craft or artisan baking tradition in existence at the time, so I tried to get a job in an in-store bakery. They told me I didn’t have sufficient qualifications, so I went to work as a pastry chef and then later as a chef. After that I did some consulting work for big bakeries, creating clean label products for them and then I started writing…”

And founded two hugely successful business to boot. In 2004, Richard and his wife Jo decided that it was time to leave the Big Smoke and head west in order to be closer to Jo’s family. The plans for The Bertinet Kitchen then began to take shape, and they quickly found the perfect premises at the end of that year.

“My wife had had our second son the year before and her job as a lawyer was making it difficult for her to spend any time with the children, so we decided we would set up our own business” Richard explains.

In the same month that Richard and Jo launched their business, Richard’s first book Dough was published to critical acclaim and scooped a host of awards. His second book Crust was published in 2007 followed by Cook – In A Class of Your Own in 2010. Two further immensely popular books have since followed - Pastry in 2012 and Patisserie Maison in 2014.

Richard Bertinet Books  

“When I looked at the bread books available in the UK I was a little frustrated - they all tell you to do the things that a professional baker would never do. To add flour to your work surface for example - this just changes the ratio of the recipe and it is just not necessary, or to knock back the dough – again this takes the air out of a dough when what you want to do is work air into it” Richard explains.

“The idea behind Dough was to show people how to work in the same way that I learned to do as an apprentice, and it was a real milestone for me. All of my working life has been about getting the best bread to as many people as possible and teaching them to make their own is something that I’ve been doing through the school, but the book enabled me to reach a much wider audience. It has now been published in 20 something countries and a host of different languages!”

As Richard’s book climbed the charts, his new business experienced similar success and The Bertinet Kitchen has gone from strength to strength ever since. Originally, the cookery school housed a small bakery, but demand was such that they now have 2 popular shops in Bath and a further 2 production bakeries, enabling them to supply even more customers across the UK, as well as carefully selected restaurants, hotels, farmshops, delis and foodshops, including the likes of Pret a Manger and supermarket giant Waitrose.

 Pixir Bertinet Bakery Indoors

‘Securing a national listing with Waitrose was a real highlight – it really is such a thrill to think that my bread is now in supermarkets all over the country” Richard enthuses.

And whilst the bakery continues to grow, the cookery school is also incredibly popular, with its selection of relaxed courses for food lovers of all abilities, as well as specialist baking and bread making courses for amateurs and professionals alike. You can try your hand at Malaysian, Thai, or Mauritian cooking, explore the cuisines of the Mediterranean, or immerse yourself in some French classics. There are Michelin-starred masterclasses with the likes of Adam Byatt (of London’s highly-acclaimed Trinity), pasta and gnocchi classes with Valentina Harris and much more, but it is the 5-day bread making course with Richard that is most popular and attracts people from all over the world...

 Richard Bertinet Pixie App Baking

Richard Bertinet By Pixie App Kitchen

“Just a simple fougasse is my favourite thing to teach – it’s the first bread I get everyone to make. It’s easy, pretty foolproof but beautiful and delicious” he explains. 

“When someone takes their first fougasse out of the oven they smile so broadly – it’s what I call a fougasse grin. It says ‘look at that – I made that’ and it is lovely to see someone taking pride in their work!”

Despite his considerable success, baking talent and in-depth knowledge, Richard is not a fussy baker by any means; far from it. His signature sourdough, for example, is made with just 3 ingredients.

“3 such simple ingredients but with them you can create the most wonderful, life sustaining food. If that is not magic – I don’t know what is!” Richard enthuses. 

“I think the best things are very simple - there is no real need to complicate what is good when it is simple”

All of Bertinet’s courses include lunch at the end - a time to sit and eat together, to ask questions and reflect on what the group has accomplished and learnt. This ritual – of sitting and eating together - and ‘breaking bread’ - is also something that Richard deems of vital importance when it comes to family life.

“We try and eat together with the children most nights – even though it can be difficult to work around everyone’s commitments, it is so important to try” he explains.

“And when it comes to entertaining – we like to keep this as casual as possible! Our favourite is to do a platter of seafood, with crab, langoustine and large prawns. We serve it with homemade mayonnaise, a large pile of Bertinet sourdough and lots of Provencal rosé - it doesn’t get much better than that!” 

Quite. And so, if you’d like to impress your next guests with a homemade Bertinet-inspired treat, then don’t miss Richard’s mouth-watering recipe for his Summer Sourdough pudding, over on TheEdit now.

Bertinet Bakery By Pixie

Bertinet Bread

Pixie Bertinet Bakery Coissants

RICHARD’S TOP TIPS FOR HOME BAKING SUCCESS

  • Back To Basics - Go back to the basics. Don’t try to master sourdoughs until you have done the baking version of learning to walk.

  • The Dough - Start with some basic white doughs and get that right first. It takes time and practice so keep going and don’t be discouraged.

  • Video Tutorials - There are lots of good videos of me teaching available on the internet – try one of those.

  • And if all else fails – come and see me for a course and we will sort you out!!


For more on Richard and The Bertinet Kitchen take a look at their page in our Little Black Book

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 02 September 2018

  bakery, baking, baking courses, bread

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