Tradition and simplicity are the cornerstones of South Australia’s recently re-opened John Opie’s Bakehouse.
Third generation bakery owner and one-time Baking Industry Association of South Australia president, John Opie has returned to the baking trade with the reopening of Opie’s Bakery Cafe in Unley, Adelaide.
Waking up early each morning to bake his classic wholemeal breads, buns, pasties and pies, the 62-year-old displays the vigour of a baker decades younger following his return from a three-year hiatus.
Mr Opie is focused on providing a consistent traditional product, with many of his customers looking to go back to basics.
“We’re not going for anything new or flash in these economic circumstances. It’s not the place to be, you’ve got to stick with the tried and true,” Mr Opie explained to Australian Baking Business.
The bakery’s most popular range is a wholemeal bread with a soft biscuit bran added to the flour, softening it from a typical hard wheat bran.
“This gives you a nice big flake that’s nice and chewy and my customers love it. We seem to sell more wholemeal bread than we do anything else,” he said.
Having been in operation for 23 years before restarting the business at its current location, Mr Opie’s baking career is just one part of a 100-year-old Opie tradition.
Mr Opie’s grandfather and great uncle started Opie Bros Bakery in 1910. The large bakery would go through 100 tonnes of flour a week, making it one of the largest privately owned commercial bakeries in Australia, before being passed on to Mr Opie’s father, Vern and his brother Ken.
Starting work in the baking trade at 21, Mr Opie also travelled to England and the US to bake and study. At the American Institute of Baking (AIB) in Chicago he studied a full-time six-month course.
“That was absolutely fantastic. Even though I hated school I really enjoyed that,” Mr Opie said.
“It’s better than a really good TAFE because it was just set up to train bakers and all of the suppliers that supply ingredients and machinery just couldn’t give the AIB enough equipment and enough machinery.”
Along with bread and pastry, John Opie’s business sells coffee and sandwiches. With many people suffering digestion issues, the bakery offers an easy-to-digest wholemeal as well as five types of sourdough based on a San Francisco starter from Leon Bailey that takes a week to make. John Opies Bakehouse also offers two loaves made from Freekeh and spelt grain.
“People that are a little bit intolerant to gluten can quite happily eat either our wholemeal, our sourdough or one of the specialty grains. A lot of them say they can eat my white bread, they say then can eat my pies and pasties because they’re not high in fat. Those people generally say, ‘Your products are good, they don’t give me indigestion’,” Mr Opie said.
The recent announcement of a potential carbon price has many of Mr Opie’s customers concerned about how they spend their money.
“We’re still in our financial crisis or starting a new one… every time (Julia Gillard) opens her mouth they close their purses. And when that happens, people don’t go out and try anything new. They would rather stick to things that they know and trust,” he said.
Helping with back of house production and front counter sales are employees Rita and Cheri.
“The staff I’ve got at the moment are absolutely wonderful. (Cheri) doesn’t have a bad day, she’s always bright and happy. (Rita) is terrific too. They’re the two that came in and I’m very, very happy with them,” he said.
With his small but committed team, Mr Opie hopes to continue the family tradition and its name in the baking trade for a few years yet.