Trader Profile-Rye Bakery

This month we chatted with the force of nature that is family-run Rye Bakery, a bakery, cafe and play space run Frome locals Amy and Owen. The pair met through a shared love of food and have developed the business through trading at markets, festivals and in cafes. Their celebrated Frome cafe at the Hubnub centre is now one of the most popular daytime hangouts in Frome.

Hi Owen! Tell us a bit about Rye Bakery – how did you get started?

Rye grew from a series of baking and pizza startups that we ran before moving back to Amy’s home town of Frome to have our little boy. We used to sell pizzas at markets, events and festivals while I was working in bakeries and restaurants in Sussex, Amy was cooking in my mothers café when we met. We both love making food for people and that’s what brought us together.

I’ve worked with some amazing bakers around the world and have spent ten years learning bread and pastry from some of the best, specialising in Sourdough and Viennoisserie. Whilst studying local food systems and seasonality over the years we are now lucky enough to work with local landowners outside of Frome to grow produce for the bakery, which includes a field of heritage wheat that we will mill for use our bread and pastry next year.

What do you like about market trading? What are the benefits to small business like yours?

We did a couple of popups with The Frome Independent before we started trading every month, after opening our first bakery and café in the Hubnub centre next to Catherine hill in Spring 2017. We bake everything just metres from our market stall and its so nice to be able to just wheel the bread crates down the road every month.

Market trading is a big part of who we are and our story, I started selling my bread and pastries at food markets with my mum ten years ago and Amy and I have continued to trade at markets in Somerset more recently. Market trading and street food can be a really tough gig, its never easy and you often have to diversify to what the markets are looking for. We love adapting and sometimes its nice to try out new ideas at markets, it’s a perfect environment to be creative and test out things we haven’t made before.

Selling my own bread to people in the place I live is the most fulfilling thing about running a bakery and I try to get out and talk to customers about my products as much as I can. It’s always exciting when people realise that eating our bread can make a real difference to their health. Selling  proper bread is often about challenging peoples value of food, both in terms of cost but also its effect on their bodies and the environment. A market is the best place to create real change within a local food system. Making bread with grains we grow and mill ourselves is a radical act and a way to resist the damage the food and farming industry has done to our soil. Buying from small scale producers and farmers has the power to create local economies, which build community, health and jobs for the people in the area.

Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?

Our most popular products are our Viennoisserie, which are laminated pastries such as croissant and danishes. Most bakeries use French butter or margarine for theirs but we set ourselves the challenge to make ours with the best local butter we could find. We decided to work with Ivy house just outside of Frome, we use their cream to churn our own butter and their milk for our café as well as using their 1kg sheets of butter they created especially for us to use for laminating. It’s tricky to keep consistent as its such a fresh natural ingredient, unlike the factory made slabs we have to adapt our method to be gentle with the butter.

Our pastry takes three days to make, I make every single pastry by hand using a well fermented pastry dough for added depth of flavour. This focus on quality sums up what we are about really, no compromise on using the best ingredients and always flavour driven. We have had people from all over Europe tell us that the pastries we sell remind them of home, We’ve had weeping Danes and speechless Parisians that cant get over the bright yellow creaminess of our pastries. We’ve received many compliments of our croissant and Danish pastries, which we are always humbled by.

We know market days are super hectic for you and the team, but if you ever get a chance to look around the market which of your fellow traders do you like to visit?

Our favourite stalls have to be the incredible Stefano, whose rabbit and polenta has warmed my spirits after a morning’s bake on many occasion. If we’ve had a successful market day I usually grab a bottle of Worley’s special reserve to celebrate. Fi Underhill’s ceramics are stunning she is a brilliant Potter.

And now some quick fire questions!

Which book has had the most impact on you?

My biggest inspiration was Dan Lepard’s book The Handmade Loaf that my grandma lent me when I was 22, with which I spent months attempting (and usually failing) to make sourdough in my first flat above a pub.

What are you listening to right now?

While I’m working I usually listen to a French station called LedJam radio, which has no talking just a mix of funk, soul, jazz, reggae and hip hop and some bizarre interludes from films in between. If you happen to be into food culture and history, I recommend the Eat This Podcast by Jeremy Cherfas or the fantastic Farmerama radio that shares stories from small scale farmers around the world.

What are you cooking, eating and drinking at the moment?

At home we love making dinner with our son, Alf who can now successfully chop all the ingredients to prepare a proper tomato sauce for his pasta at the age of two and a half. I’m sure he’ll be making croissants in no time.

Thanks Owen! If that’s got your mouth watering, you can pop into the Rye Bakery cafe at the Hubnub centre on Whittox Lane daytimes Tuesday – Sunday. They run a pretty special pizza evening on Thursday evenings too.

Rye Bakery’s stall selling their amazing breads, pastries and buns can be found on Stony Street on TFI market days, or down in Market Yard on Wednesday and Saturday for the weekly market.