10 minutes with: Andrew Whitley

The  Staff Canteen
With the Sourdough September initiative, launched by the Real Bread Campaign, aiming to highlight the sourdough method of raising bread, we have a chat to co-founder of both Real Bread Campaign and Bread Matters, Andrew Whitley. Andrew created one of the UK’s first organic artisan bakeries, the Village Bakery Melmerby, Cumbria, which he ran for 25 years as the only commercial baker in the UK using renewable energy by baking in wood fired brick ovens. However Andrew’s first forage into baking was while he was living in London, because he missed his mother’s homemade bread.Hannah 02 He said: “I thought this can’t be that difficult to do, so I bought a bag of flour, followed the instructions on the bag and made something more or less edible.” He started buying flour in larger quantities, before deciding to buy organic wheat instead, which he then milled by hand. Becoming more and more concerned with the environment, Andrew decided to start growing his own food, but while working briefly at a watermill in Cumbria, the owner of the watermill suggested Andrew start a bakery using their flour. Andrew explained: “I said ‘good God I couldn’t start a bakery’, I only knew how to make about four things! So then the owner suggested I bake some bread for their tearooms, and I thought that was something I would be able to have a go at.” He then moved to Cumbria and started as a supplier of bread and scones for the tearoom, until he realised how much he enjoyed the work, when he decided to open his own bakery and tearooms not far from the watermill. He said: “It was sort of a self-planned apprenticeship if you like, I taught myself which turned out to be the best thing- I made all the mistakes in the book, but finding things out for myself meant I was able to avoid the conventional training about additives and short fermentation methods and instead learn about the essence of bread making.” arketana - bannerAfter a visit to Russia in the early 1990s, Andrew started using sourdough techniques and launched a range of naturally fermented breads, which were in high demand after people in the UK started realising they could no longer tolerate mass produced bread. He explained: “This was when the enormous wave of intolerance and allergy we’ve seen in the last 25 years was just kicking off. I started doing research and it became clear that it was in part because from the 1960s onwards the amount of time bread was fermented has been reduced from many hours down to virtually none.” After more than 25 years at the Village Bakery Andrew left to focus on campaigning and teaching people about real bread. He then started Bread Matters with Veronica Burke, which is a small organisation teaching bread making courses and encouraging people to develop community supported bakeries. Andrew said: “We spend a lot of our time campaigning for real bread, in the sense of talking about it and helping the Real Bread Campaign to publicise its activities.” In 2006 Andrew released his first book, Bread Matters, which is a critique of industrial baking, revealing what is in the bread and what processes are used, as well as providing an alternative to industrial baking, showing readers how to make bread themselves. He said: “It’s designed not to provide an impossible number of different recipes, but to show the basic processes like basic yeasted breads, sourdough etc.”AW by Stephen Warman – Version 3 “Some people are rigorously defensive of the industrial loaf because they value its cheapness and convenience and that’s fair enough. I just want to reveal the compromises that are being made in creating that cheap food culture.” Following the response he received from the Bread Matters book, Andrew co-founded the Real Bread Campaign in 2008, which aims to show people the benefits of buying and making real bread, and to define what real bread actually is. Andrew said: “Our ambition is that real bread should be available within walking distance for everyone in the country. We can actually make this a reality and it will mean more jobs in baking and a healthier and happier community, not to mention a happier environment.” The Real Bread Campaign runs various initiatives throughout the year, with the most recent one being Sourdough September. Bread Matters resizedSpeaking about the event Andrew said: “It is important that the public is informed about what real sourdough is. It is about public information but it’s also about enjoyment and bringing back the notion that we can really celebrate the food we eat.” Andrew’s new book, DO Sourdough, includes information about how to start making sourdough, as well as how to create basic loaves, sourdough pizza, ciabatta and crumpets. He said: “Bread is a crucial part of our diet and we’re getting it so badly wrong in so many ways that it’s a matter of great national interest that we should explain to as many people as possible that there are different ways of doing it.” More information about Bread Matters can be found on their website here


We're also offering you the chance to win one signed copy of 'Bread Matters' or one of two signed copies of 'DO Sourdough Slow Bread for Busy Lives' by Andrew Whitley. All you have to do is email [email protected] with your name, address and the answer to this question: What fabric are Bread Matters couche cloths made from? Terms and conditions can be found here but the competition closes on the Tuesday 29th September at 6pm.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2015

10 minutes with: Andrew Whitley