Jason Spencer from Banana Boogie Bakery in Adelaide is no stranger to success, with the bakery (which Jason runs with his wife Kelly) sweeping the board at competitions across the nation. Baking Business sat down with Jason to have a chat about how he got his start in the business and—most importantly—the special ingredient that goes into making Banana Boogie such a huge success at competitions all around Australia.
How did you get started in baking?
It is quite a funny story. My mum was a terrible cook, her mum was a terrible cook, all my family were terrible cooks really. So I always enjoyed tinkering in the kitchen.
When I was in school, we did a small business study, and I decided to make muffins the same as the canteen. The muffins I was baking sold so well that the canteen had to stop ordering muffins until the project finished. Everyone was buying my muffins instead of theirs.
I always wanted to be a chef, but after two years in the trade I was not enjoying just serving chicken schnitzels at the pub.
One day, my mum told me about a job at a croissant factory that she had seen in the local paper. I gave them a call and had a trial shift. After the shift ended, the boss said that I looked like a baker, and he gave me a job. I never looked back.
Can you tell me a bit about the story behind Banana Boogie Bakery and how you started working there?
Banana Boogie came about after a friend of mine who owned a cafe asked if I knew anyone who made decent banana bread to buy wholesale. After some investigation, I realised there was a gap in the banana bread market here in Adelaide.
I left my job of 10 years at Buttercup Bakery in Adelaide to go back to the croissant bakery where I did my apprenticeship—where it all started. I started making banana bread for cafes all over Adelaide in my spare time.
I then, with my family, decided to start selling this now semi-famous banana bread at two local markets in Adelaide. It went absolutely bonkers. After two years of selling banana bread at the Brighton and Marion markets, we were told about a little bakery that was up for sale in Belair. I took over Bruce’s Traditional Belair Bakery, then a 40sqm shop. Eight years late,r we have expanded and now have 140sqm in our Belair location.
What are some of Banana Boogie’s specialties?
We have a few specialties that we are famously known for. These include our vanilla slice, hot cross buns, and sausage rolls—all awarded winning items. We sell hundreds of these items a day.
Obviously, Banana Boogie Bakery has been doing very well in competitions for some time, can you tell me a little bit about what goes into producing such award-winning products?
Competition baking is one of my loves. It shows to our customers that we go out of our way to continually improve and produce the best bakery products you can find.
Having these high standards can be stressful at times, but when the bakers see all the amazing reviews we get from our customers, it makes it all worthwhile.
Sourcing and only using the best possible ingredients and working with them in different ways contributes to making the amazing award-winning products we sell.
Competition bake days are the most stressful days in the bakery. You can practise as much as you can, but it all comes down to being perfect on competition day to win.
Have you guys got any plans regarding competitions in the new year?
We are not looking forward to next year’s competitions.
With all the success we have had in 2023, winning so many national titles. Next year will be massive for us. We are going to have to put in a mighty effort to recreate our success. We will give it our best shot.
What would you say to anyone else looking to enter competitions?
I love to mentor and help anyone looking to improve in competitions. I know how much it helps to get customers through the door.
I always like to tell people what Chan from Country Cobb told me: “Get results each time, then you can find out what you need to do to get better results each year.”
Our first four years of entering competitions with no results was disheartening. When we really started working hard, sourcing better ingredients, improving our skills, and finally getting that glory, it made all the hard work and long hours worthwhile.
What is your favourite thing to make?
I love to make pies. People don’t really understand the craftsmanship that goes into making a great pie. Getting that perfect pastry. The pie top and the pie bottom. Then that pie filling… It really is an art. Once you master pies, I think you can master anything.