Victorian baker Will Jane Dough likes doing things his own way. From a solo trek along the Bicentennial National Trail to opening his own wholesale bakery in the country town of Warrnambool, Will isn’t afraid of going it alone. He tells us about his bakery, purple sourdough, and the fire that threatened it all.
“It’s a beautiful place,” says Will of Warrnambool, the country town where he runs his wholesale bakery Jane Dough.
“It’s right at the end of the Great Ocean Road. A lot of people see the 12 Apostles and turn around and go back to Melbourne, but we’ve got a lot to offer down here. The coastline is pretty spectacular.”
Will opened Jane Dough in February 2017, settling in Kirkstall, 25 kilometres out of Warrnambool, after baking his way around the world. He began his career on the back of a week’s work experience at Café Moravia, which he completed while he was at high school.
“They offered me a job after a week of work experience,” says Will, who moved to Melbourne to complete his apprenticeship under Pino Marmina. From there, Will has worked under Michael Nadell in London, as a consultant in India, with Paul Giddings in Byron Bay, as well as in other bakeries in Melbourne and Warrnambool.
Will spent most of his time in London working with pastry and cake, and learnt everything he knows about sourdough from Paul in Byron Bay.
“We worked on a big wood fired oven up there; I think it’s about 106 years old.”
But in March 2015, Will decided it was time for a change and he set his sights on the Bicentennial National Trail, a trekking route that stretches down the east coast of Australia from Cooktown to Melbourne.
“I saw the markers for [the trail] when I was living in Melbourne back in 2013 and I just logged it away in the back of my mind. When I was finishing up in Byron I thought, this is the right time.”
Will hiked along the trail from Byron to Melbourne, stopping off in Perisher for four months to work the ski season.
“I saw a lot of places that no one will ever get to see, just really remote and inaccessible. It was a great experience, really tough.”
Will chose to put down roots in Warrnambool, where his family is based, and set to work opening his own bakery.
“Because I hadn’t lived there before I wanted to explore the local market and get a few contacts before I started doing my own thing. I helped set up a bakery called Hopkins River Bakery and worked there for six months setting up their systems. Then again I took six months off to set up my business.
“I wanted something that was mine and I wanted to do it my own way. I just thought that it was time to put my name on it,” says Will.
Jane Dough operates from a shop in an arcade in Warrnambool’s CBD, an area which has just undergone a $15-million renewal.
“I’m right in the centre of town and I’m a wholesale bakery, which ordinarily wouldn’t make that much sense, but rent isn’t anywhere near as much as what it would be in say Melbourne or any other city.
“It’s fairly accessible and I’ve got a lot of resources around me. I’m right next to a supermarket, which is really handy in case I’ve forgotten something.”
Will mostly supplies cafes but also some restaurants and he sells at the farmers markets every fortnight. His huge and changing range of doughnuts, such as the freeze-dried peach, riesling jelly and freeze-dried raspberry powder doughnuts, are proving crowd favourites.
“The doughnuts have just taken off so we’ve decided to focus on them. On a market morning we probably go through 300 doughnuts and through the week through wholesale, we’d go through 250 to 300. There’s other stuff that we do but that’s the main thing that goes out the door.”
At the markets, Will offers specials such as purple sourdough.
“People were like, ‘Bread shouldn’t be purple!’” laughs Will who decided to give the loaf a go after seeing Dan Cruden of Amanos Bakery in Aukland make it.
“I had a bit of an idea but I got one or two tips off Dan. I got some purple carrots and peeled them and steeped the peel in the water that I was going to be making the sourdough with. I made the carrots into a puree and put that through the bread as well.
“The idea behind it was to get people interested and show them that there’s not just your black-and-white products—you can get anything if you really want it.
“We did a run of about 20 loaves and they quite easily sold at the market.”
But it wasn’t the purple sourdough that placed Jane Dough in the local papers lately. The recent stories revolved around a fire that threatened the local shops and left the bakery with significant smoke damage.
In early December, Will was selling his products at the markets while his mum was cleaning at the bakery.
“A lady popped her head in and said to my mum, ‘There’s a fire happening; you’d better get out.’”
A 12-year-old boy, who’s been accused of lighting several other fires in the area, had lit the fire. Thankfully, it was quickly extinguished; however, the bakery suffered smoke damage that called for thorough cleaning.
“I got a heap of family and friends to come in and give us a hand to clean. We took everything out, stripped it top to bottom and cleaned it all and put it back. We ended up being down for one day of trading, but it could have been a lot worse.”
For now, Will’s focusing on maintaining his customer base and coming up with new flavours.
“We’re constantly trying to come up with new things—that’s the main thing really. We’ve got to keep excited about what we’re doing and we want to keep our customers interested as well.”
And as for combining his loves of hiking and baking, Will says they can coexist. “Baking’s my day-to-day thing but hiking is the getaway. With baking, you’re inside all day and you don’t get to see the sun that much. Hiking’s the complete opposite; you’re outside all the time and you embrace what’s around you.”