This is one of those bittersweet stories that shows the real sense of community within the baking industry, as these bakers pitch in to help a country bakery in tough times, but certainly one we wish we didn’t have to write.
If you’ve been with us a while, you might remember our profile of RedBeard Historic Bakery in Trentham, Victoria. Brothers John and Alan Reid brought the historic bakery, which had sat vacant since the 1980s, back to life in 2005, creating RedBeard.
It very quickly became the heart of the town (which sits about an hour’s drive from Melbourne) as they produced high-quality sourdough and allowed the community to cook their roasts in the 1891 Scotch oven after the bread was baked for the day.
Sadly, John was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma brain cancer in February this year after experiencing frequent headaches, but the baking community far and wide has rallied around the bakery in the months since, making sure the oven stays hot and the handmade organic sourdough keeps coming.
“Wild-ferment bakers came out of the woodwork, out of retirement, to offer their help,” John’s sister, Judith told Richard Cornish at Good Food back in June.
“They volunteered their time and arrived at midnight to start mixing. Some arrived at 3am to shape the dough. There is a lot of respect for what John has done for baking.”
One of those bakers was Michael James (pictured) of Tivoli Road Bakery fame, who still drives to Trentham from Melbourne to help out (with a travel permit under Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions).
“John is sadly In his last days, so I’m here helping out and supporting best I can,” Michael told Baking Business.
Michael and John have been friends for many years, and travelled extensively together to visit bakeries in the United States, and Michael told Good Food that John’s reputation is known globally.
“John has a vision where every town has its own baker, baking sourdough bread and pastries made from local grain,” he said.
Our thoughts are with John’s family and community.