The Barrington Bakery, located in Dungog, is home to award-winning, third-generation bakers and brothers Kye and Tristan Biesler. After Kye’s near-fatal car accident, it’s the resilience of the Biesler brothers that has their father, Simon, filled with pride.
At 21 years of age, Tristan Biesler is the eldest of eight children. Living in the regional town of Dungog, he fondly remembers the benefits of growing up as the baker’s son.
“Most of my youth was spent in our smaller store, helping Dad out whenever I could. I enjoyed having days off school so I could come and help Dad out at the bakery,” Tristan says.
As the winner of the 2019 LA Judge competition, Tristan will enjoy a trip to Belgium to further hone his craft.
“It’s always fun to learn the craft from other bakers and seeing it demonstrated is easier than reading it in books,” he says.
“I’m looking forward to working with the European breads and more rye doughs.”
Both Tristan and Kye frequently compete in baking competitions. With three bakers in the family, there is only a little competiveness between them, Tristan says.
“When I started getting into competitions, it was more because Kye had already done it and was singing his own praises, so I thought I might as well give it a go,” he says.
Recently, 18-year-old Kye Biesler won silver at Worldskills and was selected for the international competition in Russia, which unfortunately he could not attend.
“Baking is what I grew up with, so it just feels natural. I picked it up really easily,” Kye says.
With a head for business, Kye looks forward to taking over the bakery’s books in the future when Simon retires.
“The business side is interesting,” he says.
“I couldn’t imagine not growing up in a family baking business. I think that’s why I have such a passion for it all.”
All three agree the only downside to being a baker is the early mornings and long hours, which in April this year nearly cost Kye his life.
Simon Biesler recalls the horrifying night he thought he might lose his 18-year-old son.
“We’d been awake since 3am. At 9pm, Kye was driving the bread van and was following me in another car. We both stopped at McDonalds, got out and had a feed as we were tired,” Simon recalls.
“Back on the road, we got to about five kilometres out of Dungog when Kye, about 50 yards behind me, fell asleep.
“The police said he’d slumped forward, accelerating to 120km/h before he ploughed into the tree.
“I heard the bang behind me and knew exactly what had happened, did a U-turn and raced back.
“I ripped the cargo partition out and I was trying to pull him out of the seat, because the motor had come through the dash and squashed his leg back under the seat… I could see his femur sticking out the top and thought he was going to bleed out and die.
“He was unconscious and turning white with his breathing getting shallower.”
While Simon tried to free his son from the vehicle, help arrived at last.
“Finally the ambulance pulled up and stopped me, dragging me out of the truck,” he says.
“They started working on him before the helicopter arrived.
“It turned out he wasn’t bleeding out from his leg – it was actually his liver that was bleeding internally.”
The rescue helicopter had to land at Dungog and drive out to the accident due to heavy fog.
Kye was rushed to Dungog hospital by helicopter, where the race to save him continued.
“I beat the helicopter to the hospital by 15 or 20 minutes. I thought he had died,” Simon recalls.
Kye was rushed straight into surgery to stop the internal bleeding, and the surgeons told Simon they might have to remove Kye’s leg. Five hours later, they had saved Kye’s life and his leg – or so they thought.
The next day they discovered Kye had torn the aorta off his heart. He was admitted straight into heart surgery. By the third day, Kye’s lungs had collapsed.
Eventually stabilised and discharged from hospital with 1,000 pins in his leg and 300 stitches running from his stomach to his ankle, Kye is still on crutches four months later.
With Simon trying to run the businesses without his right-hand man, his large family has stepped up to help.
“Fortunately, his brothers and sisters have all chipped in, working nights packing or in the bakery after school,” Simon says.
“There’s eight kids and the only one that doesn’t work is the three-year-old.”
From a tough start, the business is now growing faster than Simon can manage as he begins planning for retirement.
“I took over from my dad and now my kids want to take over from me. It keeps going and all this effort isn’t going to just evaporate,” Simon says.
“When I first moved out here to this factory, I’d just split up with my wife, I had no money, the electricity man was here every second day to cut the power off and the kids and I were living in an office building here onsite. We didn’t have hot water for the first three months.”
Thanks to the help of the community and his suppliers who believed in him, 13 years later tells another story for Simon and his fiancé, who are now busy raising a family while running a successful factory and six retail stores.
“We were 90 per cent wholesale with one retail store, now we’ve had to move into this big old butter factory here in Dungog, and we’ve just taken on another five stores,” Simon says.
“Staff is hard to come by. There’s only two-and-half-thousand people who live here and over the past 23 years we have pretty well employed everyone over that time.”
Describing the next two years as more sleepless nights, Simon has a plan to retire from the businesses he’s worked so hard to build, passing them on to his children to run.
His retirement plan is to step back and, ironically, bake.
“Because the business is so big, I hardly get to make anything as I just don’t have the time,” Simon says.
He describes his sons’ baking skills as excellent but notably different.
“Tristan has to work for it, baking doesn’t come naturally to him, he’s had to work really hard to achieve,” Simon says.
“Whereas Kye, it just comes naturally – he’s a wonderful dough maker.”
Both Tristan and Kye are enrolled at TAFE NSW completing their Certificate III in Retail Baking, and Simon couldn’t be thankful enough.
“TAFE NSW should be commended the effort they have put into my sons – they’re waiting for the rest of my kids,” he laughs.
With the Biesler family riding the ups and downs of business and life together, there seems nothing that they can’t achieve, especially in the eyes of Simon, who fondly declares, “The two boys’ achievements have blown me out of the water. I’m the proudest man in the world.”