A Decade Of Sourdough

Sydney sourdough bakery, Sonoma Baking Company celebrates 10 years of delivering quality sourdough bread.

In 2011, Andrew Connole and the team at Sydney’s Sonoma Bakery Company celebrate a decade of hands-on baking, 3am starts and thousands of customers. From a modest start 14 years ago in the tiny New South Wales town of Bellata, in May the business opened its centralised Sonoma HQ bakery in Alexandria, 10 years after moving to Sydney. Sonoma also opened a fourth standalone café in Bondi in May, joining the company’s Glebe, Paddington, and Danks Street, Waterloo, outlets.

The Alexandria headquarters is a true baking mecca – a 2800 sq m facility that will become the heart and soul of Sonoma.

All of Sonoma’s famed San Francisco-inspired sourdough breads will be baked around the clock and the new bakery has also commenced baking pastries to be delivered to the cafés each day.

Sonoma was formed in 1998 off the back of a nostalgic dream with Andrew, his father Kerry and brother Christian, to bake great bread in an old wood-fire oven. After a trip to Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, in 1997 where Andrew spent time with Chad Robertson, now of Tartine Bakery fame, he returned with the dream of baking the best sourdough bread in the country.

“The early days were tough. Christian and I did the baking and dad handled deliveries. We baked, we slept, we baked – that was our life. All three of us were consumed by a burning passion to build something from nothing,” Mr Connole said.

Supplying bread to some of Sydney’s top chefs-hatted restaurants, the Alexandria-business will also include a baking school for bread devotees, corporates, groups and friends where Andrew and his team will present a true hands-on baking experience followed by dinner or lunch in the Sonoma HQ diner.

The Sonoma HQ café will also be a little different to the other Sonoma Cafés with a liquor license and an expanded menu including pizzas and Sonoma’s signature sandwiches, as well as mueslis and the complete range of sourdough bread. A chef will run Sonoma HQ, which will also turn into a unique events space at night.

Just as things seem like they couldn’t get any better, in May Andrew appeared in an episode of Network Ten’s MasterChef, testing the top 24 contestants in a bake off.

The challenge was the result of MasterChef producers approaching Andrew with the idea of a baking challenge in Sydney’s best bakery.

The contestants split into two groups of 12 and were charged with baking sourdough bread for five of Sydney’s top restaurants currently supplied by Sonoma – Pier, Otto, Buon Ricordo, Sepia and Bodega.

Judges Gary Meighan and George Calombaris were on-hand with Andrew as he took the teams through their paces while Matt Preston met with each of the chefs from the restaurants to get their feedback on the final product. It was a long shoot for those involved, with the cameras rolling in the bakery from 9pm until 4pm the following day.

“It was a lot of fun, the contestants, judges and crew were all great to be around,” Mr Connole said.

“To be a part of something like MasterChef is a great experience and the fact that they chose us to feature in this series shows how much respect there is for Sonoma in the industry. It was a really enjoyable experience.”

Sonoma’s rise has been a story of intensity and steely determination – an inspiring adventure that began with the simple desire to bake a beautiful loaf of bread. Andrew and Christian’s father passed away in 2009, but they continue to honour his passion and are driven by my intense desire to stay true to his original idea – and never forget the early days in Bellata.

“We’ve always embraced the challenge, and built a brand from sheer hard work, determination and an unwavering focus on quality – and our humble beginnings are the cornerstones of the Sonoma brand today,” Mr Connole said.

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