I am a 50 something mother of one, with an obsession for making good bread. I was born and raised in St Albans, where I learned to cook at an early age with my mum, who wasted nothing and cooked with real ingredients (many being home-grown) in preference to pre-prepared ready meals and supermarket sauces. When I left school, I trained as a home economist for two years and cooking featured high on the curriculum. Fresh out of college, I was desperate to earn my own money, so parking my love of all things food firmly into my personal life, I took a job in a Market Research office and that is where I stayed for 13 years. Bored of academia, I wanted something different. The next 13 years was a collage of executive roles, selling used cars, divorce, re-location to Luton, marriage and the birth of my son. Through all this time my passion for cooking and food grew and grew.
I bought a breadmaker in 2005 and started to bake my own bread. I was a bit disappointed with the resulting lump of unsliceable bread with a hole through the middle, so I just used the machine to make the dough and then hand shape loaves (but mainly rolls) myself. Then the spindle broke in my machine and so I had my first attempt at mixing, kneading and shaping the bread entirely by hand. I WAS HOOKED. I started fervently baking all kinds of bread from standard white, to Focaccia, from Indian Naan breads to Pitta (by the way, after trying home-made pitta breads, you’ll never go back to the bits of cardboard that are available in the shops!). I realised that all my family and friends were loving my bread but they couldn’t eat as much as I was baking, so I decided that I needed to spread the net wider.
In early June 2011 I attended a course on how to start your own bakery from home, a present from my beloved husband. Within a month, I had a rough plan, a logo, promotional literature, equipment, environmental health approval, insurance, flour supplier and a name. Jo’s Loaves more or less opened it’s ‘virtual’ doors on 25th July 2011 from my home kitchen that I had to modify a fair bit on bake days. In those days, I’d bake a few different loaves here and there to order, usually on a Saturday. After a year of this, I then started selling at Hexton Farmers’ market and found the stress of producing so many loaves in one go, totally exhilarating (and exhausting at the same time!). I gradually stopped baking to order and as the stress of the monthly market became easier, more markets were added to my working month and I focussed more on these than on my part-time ‘real’ job, (which luckily has the flexibility of me working from home).
In late 2013, I was given the opportunity to move my baking operation to dedicated premises in nearby Offley. Over the next couple of months, I was able to raise enough dough with the help of my family and support from friends to be able to install a proper bread oven, mixer and running hot and cold water. At the end of February 2014, I baked my first loaves from my new little bakery. And a couple of months later, I traded in my 2L sports Honda Civic for a van. It has my logo all over it and it is one of my most treasured possessions.
I now bake 4 times a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and the odd Saturday, supplying a few cafes and farm shops as well as having my own stand at farmers Markets most weeks.