We started Vickys Bread in May 2006, in a small industrial unit on the same estate where we are still baking away today, although these days we are in a somewhat larger building!

People often ask me why and how I became a baker, and looking back, like a lot of things in life, it was a bit of an accident, combined with not being able to get a job, and meeting someone as mad as me who seemed to think it was a good idea!

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baked a lot growing up. My mum was not massively into baking; she particularly hated getting her hands mucky rubbing fat into flour for scones and pastry, so that was one of my early jobs in the kitchen. As a teenager, I loved making cakes, and then breads, and I collated my favourite recipes into notebooks. I never really thought much about how much I enjoyed baking, and definitely not that it could be a job, but when I found myself unemployed and unemployable in my early 20’s, in my beloved Cornwall, I just sort of fell in love with the idea of being a baker. I naively thought it was romantic and artsy, and to be honest I’m not sure much would have become of my rather fanciful daydreams if it wasn’t for the tireless optimism of my new beau, the indomitable Hairy Harford. When I told him of my dream to work in a bakery, he didn’t laugh at all, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “let’s start our own!”

The first thing I needed to do was actually find out about this whole bread making thing, so I did a couple of work experience placements in bakeries in Dorset and Bristol and began to work out that the kind of breads I wanted to make were rustic, holey, chewy and French. At the time, the artisan bread movement in the UK was in its infancy, and all the training courses in France were several years long, so I found an intensive artisan bread course at the French Culinary Institute in New York. My grandmother had left me some money in her will, and I used that to book a place on the course, jumped on a plane, and luckily for me, learnt everything there that is now the backbone of what we do at Vicky’s Bread. I had a fantastic German tutor, Hans Welker, who made a lot of fun of me as a clueless British person and told me the English made bread that looked like it had never seen an “ooven”. He’s right, we Brits are only just beginning to realize all the flavour there is to enjoy in a deep brown, nutty crust. I learnt out in the great US of A that making great bread is simple, find a system that works for you, don’t cut corners, and just keep going!

On returning home, Hairy and I rented an industrial unit in Helston, and started collecting all the things I needed to start a bakery, the Hans Welker way. Hairy worked as a kitchen fitter at the time and made me a huge beech topped table to divide and mould the dough on. We still have it today; we call it the ‘making table’. We bought a second-hand mixer, an ex-supermarket deck oven, and a reconditioned retarder-prover to cool and also warm the dough, as needed. On the first day I think I made around 50 loaves and delivered them to four shops in and around Helston. After a couple of months of making and delivering everything on my own with help from Hairy and my parents, I took on a driver/helper, and from there we have slowly grown to a team of 30, making 1-2 thousand loaves a day.

We still make all our bread absolutely the same as I did on the first day, although we have expanded our range slightly to include sliced tin shaped versions of our loaves, and some treats like saffron buns. Our bread now ends up in over 100 outlets across Cornwall and Devon. We are passionate about supporting independent shops, and we even run the shop in our own village because nobody else would! We know what it’s like running a very small shop, competing with supermarkets, and we understand that high quality producers are one of the keys to success and the future sustainability of these hubs of the community. We are really proud to be one of those producers.

Running the bakery has its ups and downs, like any business, and over the years we have run several businesses alongside it to help make ends meet; for five years we ran our local pub as well which was pretty tough! We always say though that the bakery is our true love, nothing can replace the magic of making something from scratch, from turning a bag of flour into a loaf of bread, and the joy of smelling bread baking never fades! Thank you to everyone who has bought our bread, sold our bread, eaten our bread, and helped to make our bread over the years, and a special thank you to Hairy, without whom I would be totally lost, and Vicky’s bread would not exist. Without people, we are nothing (sorry Joe Strummer, I nicked that line!)
Happy baking, living, eating,

Vicky Harford