Four generations of the Boase family have stood behind the counter at Barmera Bakery, helping to craft its traditional range of breads and pastries.
“You need to understand the product you are making. Good preparation and quality ingredients are a must. Good equipment also helps.”
This is the advice Barmera Bakery owner Angus Boase has for other bakers, and he would know, having spent the past 41 years honing his craft in his family-owned business.
It’s an old tale, but an inspiring one nonetheless. What initially began as simply helping out his parents in the bakery and behind the counter on Saturday mornings and after school quickly developed into love affair with the baking industry.
And, when asked what it is that draws him back to baking day after day, even after four decades in the industry, Angus is direct.
“Baking never stays the same, it seems to be constantly changing. I also enjoy most aspects of owning and running a bakery. I find it very satisfying to make a product from start to finish, then have someone want to buy it,” Angus says.
“I even enjoy the hours. On average I don’t start before 3am very often, which for a bakery is not too bad.”
Angus’ introduction to baking was something akin to a baptism of fire. In the early days of Barmera Bakery the workload was shared between himself and his father, with his grandfather occasionally pitching in to lend a hand as well when times got busy.
Then, when Angus and his wife, Tammie, bought the business from Angus’ parents in 2000, the tradition of all hands on deck when necessary continued, with both their son and daughter learning the business ropes while still in high school.
“That’s four generations working in the bakery, but not all at the same time,” Angus laughs.
These days the Barmera Bakery staff looks a little different, with Angus now leading a 13-strong team of bakers, all of whom are women.
The entirely female team was purely accidental, but nevertheless, Angus says he has noticed a marked uptake of baking apprenticeships by women in recent years.
“It wasn’t planned that way at Barmera Bakery, but that’s how it’s worked out,” he says.
“However, essentially it’s the people themselves who are very important to your business. Obviously you need reliable staff you can rely on and trust. There is nothing better than a staff member taking a bit of ownership, pride and care in the business.”
And these attributes shine through at Barmera Bakery, with Angus’s staff regularly coming to him with new ideas and products they’d like to try out on the shelves.
Describing Barmera Bakery as being a “morning tea and lunch trade bakery”, whose day-to-day trade is based on traditional items such as pies, pasties, vanilla slice and salad rolls, Angus says that doesn’t stop he and his staff regularly searching for new items to add to the shelves.
“We’re always looking for something new, not only to expand our range but it’s good for us to have something different to make as well. Sometimes this will be customer-driven, when they ask if you can make a certain product, or maybe one of the bakers may come across a recipe they think will be successful,” Angus says.
However, it’s making traditional breads such as ciabatta and sourdough that holds Angus’ heart—although if he’s going to indulge in one of Barmera Bakery’s products he says it must be the lamb shank pie.
“I love making bread, especially sourdough and ciabatta. Bread is alive; it must be treated with care and love—just like us,” Angus says.
“But baking itself is a tough game. There are long antisocial hours and hard, hot work, so you’ve got to enjoy what you are doing.”
This extends to the bakery itself, which has changed markedly throughout the years.
When Angus’ parents bought the original Barmera Bakery, it was a small space boasting a diesel-fired scotch oven and a house attached to the rear. The diesel was quickly upgraded to gas and, when the scotch oven collapsed years later, it was removed and the space was converted into a storeroom.
A total renovation of the bakery was then undertaken when Angus was 21.
“The original bakehouse was made of thick stone with an asbestos lean-to on the side. When I turned 21, Dad had the bakery completely rebuilt. It’s now probably double the size it originally was, and we built the new bakehouse around the old one. Despite that, the only day we didn’t bake during that period was the day the new roof went on,” Angus laughs.
“Then, when Tammie and I bought the bakery, we renovated the old house and extended the rear of the shop. We also added an outdoor eating area.”
When asked if he had any advice for other bakers Angus’ words were simple and direct.
“A baker friend of mine once said to me that if all he did was worry about money and profit, then it was time to get out of the bakery. I often remember that,” Angus says.
“I personally always look for ways to make work easier for us all. I believe good quality and well-maintained machinery is a must, and visiting bakers and travelling sales reps are often surprised at the up-to-date modern equipment in our little country bakery.”