Up Close with Stewart Latter

Stewart Latter holding a tray of bread loaves straight out of the oven

As a fourth-generation baker it’s little wonder Stewart Latter’s bakery, Bread Basket, carries the motto ‘born to bake’. Many will know Stewart either personally or by reputation from the many roles he performs in the baking industry—including baker, trainer, mentor, judge and former president/current New South Wales delegate of the Baking Association of Australia. Stewart had a chat with Baking Business about the industry he’s still as passionate about over 40 years later.


Although his family history might make it seem like there was little choice in the matter of Stewart eventually becoming a baker, it’s his staunch belief that if you’re not passionate about it, you shouldn’t do it.

“I’ve always believed that if you’re going to be any good at it, you’ve got to love it,” he says.

“I was never forced to do it—Dad never said, you know, ‘You’re doing this’. And the same thing, I’ve got a son and a daughter and I’ve never forced them into baking—they’re actually both in agriculture.

“I think I’d regret it because if it’s not what they love, then you can’t expect them to do well. That’s my theory with the people I employ too. I’ve said, ‘if you don’t want to be here, don’t be here, because you’re not going to do us justice and you’re not going to do yourself justice.”

In fact, Stewart admits he initially had aspirations of being a chef before doing work experience at a cake shop in Maitland and finding that he really enjoyed it. So, in 1980 Stewart commenced his apprenticeship under the watchful eye of his father Don at the family owned Latter Bros. Bakery in Maitland, which was the largest family owned bakery in New South Wales at the time.

After finishing his baking apprenticeship and starting up a pastry cook apprenticeship, Stewart moved to Sydney to learn the art of cake and was blown away by the concept of the hot bread shops that were popular in the city—something that didn’t exist in the Hunter region he came from.

“These people were lining up for fresh bread and so forth seven days a week, and I just couldn’t believe it,” Stewart says.

“I thought, ‘Geez, that’s something that I might be interested in’.”

From there, he finished his qualification in Newcastle and worked for Darby’s in the mid-late ‘80s until a colleague left to open his own shop in Belmont and asked Stewart to come along.

“We had five shops at one stage—four of them at Lake Macquarie and one at Kurri. We sold them off and bought the partners out.”

December 1994 was the official opening of Bread Basket at Kurri Kurri—which is now the only operating Bread Basket. The purpose-built, two-storey shop boasts a bakery-café out the front. The Bread Basket also supplies stores and cafes from Maitland to Newcastle.

Stewart works alongside his wife of 36 years, Sharon, whom he affectionately refers to as “the boss”.

“Without Sharon, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”

During all his years in the baking industry, Stewart has competed in many competitions, Australia wide, taking out the Australian Championship in 1990 AND 1992. His time is now spent judging baking shows all around Australia and encouraging young bakers and pastrycooks to be the best they can be through his involvement with the BAA.

“My father always taught me that if you want to change something, get involved in it—don’t just sit on the outside and throw stones,” he says.

“So, I got involved. Back then, all the states had their own independent associations. And then we got an idea of amalgamating them all under the one banner. And I got stated in as the inaugural president of the Baking Association and was there for eight or nine years.”


After the national Association was established, Stewart—who is a big believer in competition as a way to push a baker to be their very best—had the idea to create competitions for each state so that no matter where you are, you could compete in the same competitions with the same high standard of judging, which is now the Excellence in Baking.

Stewart is also passionate about the apprentice system, despite it being heavily criticised over the years, and wants to see more young people exposed to trades and careers other than those offered by university degrees.

“I didn’t love school and left when I was 15—I started my apprenticeship on my birthday,” he says.

“To get those people, I’ve had quite a bit of success with them doing an apprenticeship-type course at TAFE, where they go full-time for three months and get a taste of bread and pastry. That’s definitely something that I would encourage coming back, but it’s like everything—funding’s always the problem.”

These days, Stewart is travelling less for judging competitions and trying to find a better balance between work and home, and has been doing some consulting work in small bakeries—something he hopes to do more of in the future. Fortunately, his excellent staff ensure the bakery runs smoothly when he isn’t there, but he says he still doesn’t mind keeping bakers’ hours.

“It’s what I’m used to,” he explains.

“Actually, I always tell people I’d much rather be a baker and know that I’m going to get up at one in the morning every day than be like some people—like nurses—that will do a couple of night shifts and skip to an afternoon and then a morning.”


On his Thursdays off each week, Stewart can be found on the family’s cattle farm, which is more of an enjoyment than work for him.

“I’ll go to the farm and I’m quite happy with a couple of kelpies just doing some fencing and maintenance—just being out in the bush,” he says.

As well as the occasional game of golf, Stewart squeezes in as much time as he can with his four grandchildren aged four, two-and-a-half, two, and 10 months.

“And that’s the priority as you get older, to enjoy the grandkids more than you mostly probably had time to enjoy your kids,” he says.

“It’s a very important part of my life.”

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