Whiplash: They say a change is as good as a holiday, and this applies to vocation too. Here are just a handful of bakers, pastry chefs and chocolatiers in the industry who once had very different careers but decided to pursue their passion for food.
Teaching to treating
Tia Chaanine, Honey Bee Baker, Sydney NSW
Tia Chaanine is a nanny, tutor and future primary school teacher who has added baker to her bag of tricks after creating a side hustle to help support herself while studying.
From her family’s home kitchen, Tia operates Honey Bee Baker, creating custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies along with custom cake toppers, personalised boxes and dessert hampers.
“In high school I began to make birthday cakes for friends for their 18th birthdays,” Tia says.
“It used to make me so happy seeing such a special moment and being a special part of a celebration.
“At the beginning of 2020, the worst year to start a small business, I opened a small Instagram store. I spent three weeks of my pay buying supplies to start up my company.
“In the first month of opening my business we celebrated Valentine’s Day, I received nine orders and I was so happy. By mother’s day a couple months later I had over 50 orders. “I was absolutely over the moon and so overwhelmed.”
Tia credits her mother and grandmother for teaching her the baking basics and how to be consistent, and learned cake decorating skills by studying videos online.
“I watched hours of YouTube videos and after making some fail cakes I started to find my cake style,” she says.
“I’m still learning everyday. TikTok has so many videos of cake decorating and making from all around the world.
“I’ve been using TikTok too to share my own cake tips and tricks to the wide world of bakers.”
Tia is now a part time baker, part time student and part time nanny. Her busy weeks consist of Zoom meetings, lesson plans, learning new recipes and dedicating every spare hour to her small business.
“I love working with kids and education but baking is where all the fun is,” Tia says.
“Learning new recipes, decorating techniques and trialing products is what I look forward to. I love when customers give me crazy ideas or themes to work with.”
Although Tia will continue with her goal to become a teacher, she doesn’t see a future without baking in it.
“I don’t compare working with and educating kids to baking both equally makes my heart happy,” she says.
“I look forward to seeing my business grow and change with time. I think people who have a passion for food can never lose that drive to keep creating good food; in the same way an artist doesn’t stops being creative.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done because I get to be so creative.”
Mining to mixing
Katie and Jarrod Lamprey, Rustic Bakehouse, Cressy Tas
Katie and Jarrod Lamprey, owners of Rustic Bakehouse in the Tasmanian town of Cressy were about as far as possible from the industry before purchasing Rustic. Despite both having backgrounds in hospitality – Katie in management and Jarrod a baker/pastry chef by trade – they had jumped on the mining boom as it was kicking off, and rode that wave for 10 years with Katie driving trucks in Western Australia and Jarrod on the drills in a fly-in fly-out role.
“We both totally went out of field,” Katie says.
“We were really lucky; we walked in pretty much just on the cusp of the mining boom. I was only driving trucks for about a year before I was in the management side. It’s funny how you’re always pulled to what you were born to do, no matter what industry you go into.”
Despite the mining life being a lucrative one, the Lampreys were drawn back to the baking industry and, wanting to make a more family-friendly life for themselves, purchased their bakery and settled in Cressy.
“I always had that pull to go back; and it was just a matter of getting money I guess,” Katie says.
“It’s always good to have a dream, but you’ve got to get a bit of money behind you and I quite literally used to Google – for 10 years I reckon – ‘woodfired bakeries’, just trying to find our piece of paradise.
“We both went from very stable, well-paying jobs, to basically following a dream, which as you can appreciate when you’ve got young kids is a massive risk, but I think we just try not to focus on the risk and just focus on the lifestyle.”
Computing to churning butter
Olivia and Rob Morrison, Bread + Butter, Launceston Tas
You would never know they weren’t born into the industry, but before they were one of Launceston’s top producers of cultured butter and fresh bread and pastry, Olivia and Rob Morrison of Bread + Butter made their crust behind a computer with careers in IT.
In fact neither had had any previous experience in baking, hospitality or indeed, making butter, but recognised there was a gap in the market for real, cultured cutter and fresh bread and jumped right in, starting their butter factory five years ago.
“We did a lot of travel, and we both obviously really love food and being in Launceston we saw a big hole in the market, especially with not being able to buy really good bread every day of the week,” Olivia says.
“Our mantra is to have good butter available, and also to have fresh bread 365 days a year.
“We originally started with Tasmanian Butter Company, which is our cultured butter making business.”
They started out selling the small-batch, hand-made butter at the Harvest Market, and now supply multiple grocers and restaurants as well as running their bakery, Bread + Butter, which produces croissants (made with their own butter, of course) and naturally leavened bread, alongside a variety of other sweet and savoury pastries, baked fresh daily.
Banking to baking
Andrew Collier, Seasalt Sourdough Artisan Bakery, Swan Reach Vic
For eight years Andrew Collier lived the suit-and-tie banker lifestyle before throwing in the towel and making his way back to where he felt most at home: in the kitchen.
After moving to East Gippsland with his wife and partner Juanita, they noticed a sad lack of freshly baked sourdough. As both Juanita and their daughter Amelie struggle with non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity, sourdough – which they find tolerable – is more of a necessity than a luxury. And so Andrew started experimenting with making sourdough and discovered he had a knack for it.
“We started about 18 months ago,” says Andrew.
“From eight years out of the industry doing banking, I’d returned to kitchen life as a chef, which I’m trained to do. When I went back into that role it was really clear that there was nowhere you could get fresh sourdough in our area – the nearest was three hours away.
“I decided to start making it myself, found it was one of those things that just came naturally and we just decided to do it. It’s been successful – ever since we opened the doors we’ve been very busy.”
After eight years working in a full range of personal and business banking, Andrew says he came out with the necessary skills to run a business.
“It was a really good time to sort of learn about running a business and what is viewed as a good business from a financial point of view,” he says.
“So when it was time to actually run our own business, I knew what we should be aiming for when it came to financial things and also where I can get help when I need it, and what form that would take. That was a really good thing – even though I didn’t enjoy my time in banking lots of positives came out of it.
“Any skills that you pick up along the way, if you’re running your own business you’re going to be able to put it into practice somewhere.”