The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Calling all Irish bakers and bakery owners/bakery workers

womanbread's picture

Calling all Irish bakers and bakery owners/bakery workers

Hi - I'm a long-time lurker and even longer lover of baking and everything to do with baking. I live in Ireland (moved here from the US about 15 years ago) and love it here, but amazingly, what I've found is that there aren't many bakeries here, compared to how many there used to be.

I write the above as a preface to my asking for some advice from any Irish bakers out there, or any Irish bakery owner or worker in an Irish bakery.

I would dearly love to open my own bakery right here in this relativey small village I live in (County Sligo/County Mayo area), but because I am a home baker with a true and life-long passion for baking, I realise that going from baking batch loaves, soda bread, scones, muffins, pies, tarts, biscuits/cookies for family and friends and bake sales is a completely different thing altogether than running/owning/opening my own bakery.

I'm hopng that there might be someone reading this, who lives in Ireland, who might be able to help me or advise me as to the very basics or pros and cons of even considering such a venture. I've read on one of the many wonderful and extremely informative TFL forums a couple of months back about someone (I think her name is Christie) whose love of baking led her to ask for advice on the same thing as I am asking/considering here, but the difference is that I'm in Ireland, which is why I'm looking specifically for someone living in Ireland or an Irish bakery owner if they could offer even a few helpful and/or cautionary words of advice (and/or encouragement).

Thanks very much in advance. I just hope I wasn't rabbitting on too much or worse, offered too little or have too vague. I'm hopeful and excited and motivated, but I'm also a bit anxious and, if truth be told, worried that although it has been a long-time dream of mine to become a baker and one day own and run my own small bakery and/or bakery cafe, that it might be a dream that's likely to turn into a nightmare.






turosdolci's picture


I am American but have lived in Switzerland for many years and have traveled extensively in Europe. I can only tell you that the relationship with bakeries and cafe's in Europe is very different then in the US. Bread is still a staple for most people and visiting a cafe for desserts is a way of life in many places. I was one who responded on the article that you mentioned, but I think your doing the right thing by getting advice from the Irish and understanding the local environment.  The only thing I would recommend it that it would be greately helpful for you to try to get an intership or even work for free for a little while to gain some experience before you take the leap. This will give you more confidence and some valuable knowledge.  Good Luck!


mimifix's picture

Greetings, womanbread!

Enthusiasm is essential for running a small business, so good for you. But you also need commercial baking experience and business experience. As Patricia already wrote, an internship or entry-level job would help you learn the basics. I owned a bakery/cafe for many years and hired numerous people who wanted to start their own bakery business. That experience was invaluable in helping them make an informed decision.


womanbread's picture


Thanks Patricia and Mimi, for replying and for your encouragement and
words of wisdom and advice. I appreciate your taking the time out to help advise
me on what to do/where to turn to next.

I've been thinking (and daydreaming) non-stop for weeks if not months (actually, if I'm
honest for years now) about not only becoming a professional baker, but owning my
own bakery and/or bakery cafe. I realise now that I have wasted so much time, so many
years merely dreaming, daydreaming, fantastising, imagining what it would be like to
actually make this dream of mine a realised one, and in doing that, many,many years
have passed me by. I am no longer a young woman in my 20's, but now in my 40's (but
still feel like I'm as young as I was once upon a time).

I agree with what you both have advised, about finding a bakery or perhaps a course (or
many courses) and become involved in an internship or apprenticeship. There is a small
bakery that just opened recently, called Caca Milis in a gorgeous location - Strandhill, a beach
and seaside community in Sligo - do check it out on-line, as there's a lovely article written
about the bakery and the baker/owner, Christophe, and how he came to open Caca Milis, that
I would love to intern at. I've even spoken to Christophe about working there, and he did
ask me for my name and phone number, in the event he ever needs extra staff. The lightbulb
has just lit up above my head as I write this, as I'm now thinking that instead of waiting for
him to ring me, I should ring him and tell him I want to work for him as an apprentice, for free,
just to gain some much-needed hands-on baking experience in an actual bakery. Do you think
that'd be a good way to go?

That, coupled with taking a few courses at a local college (St. Angela's) that offers
baking and cookery classes, would probably go a long way to help me, also.

Do you think it's a silly or next-to-impossible dream to want to do this so 'late in life'?
Not only an apprenticeship/internship, but the actual opening of a bakery at my age?
I realise that we're as young as we feel, and that someone in their 40's isn't exactly
one foot in the grave just yet, but could it still be a case of me being too long in the tooth
to pursue this dream any further than daydreaming about it?

I was also taking on board what Patricia (and a friend of mine has agreed with this) about
finding out about selling at a farmer's market or a food and craft fair (there are quite a few
in Ireland, though not as many as there once was, and not as many as there are in the UK).
Perhaps this might be a more realistic and less stressful option. I could still bake to my
heart's desire and heart's content, and still sell my wares, but not have the worry and
stress that accompanies owning a shopfront business, as a bakery or cafe would.

Any comments, suggestions, advice would be very much appreciated and welcomed.
Thanks again Patricia and Mimi, for your help and advice.


turosdolci's picture

There are many ways to follow your dream. Do the research and look at the paths that might be right for you and understand the business aspects.  I wrote a blog post on our experiences and how we started.  Many people have spoken about on this site, it is a business, not just baking. This is why it is important to gain some hands on experience because you have to bring the dream to reality. Markets are a possibility and selling to caterers as we do is another way of doing it. Many clubs, churches etc. have kitchens that have the health permits etc. you can rent if you need a larger place to bake.  But you start by doing the research, writting a business plan and understanding the business aspects. Baking and dreaming are not enough you need to know what it is going to take to run this business.  Call the baker you talked to and don't wait for him to call you.

Good Luck


womanbread's picture

Hi again Patricia, and thanks so much for replying.

I'm taking your advice on board, and am beginning to do the required study and research into what it would take and what I'd need to invest - time, experience, as well as money - to pursue this dream of mine further.

I agree with you completely that I absolutely need hands-on experience from a professional baker, at an actual up-and-running bakery. This is one of the things I am now actively pursuing.

I've recently borrowed two books from our local library today - one is 'Baking for Profit,' by Dave Bathie and the other is an Irish governmental publication, called 'Running Your Own Business.' Has anyone read the first book and found it helpful? The second book takes you through mock feasability reports, loan applications, business plans, mentoring programmes and helpful organisations (phone numbers, e-mail addresses, websites and the like).

I am more than willing to do the hard work that is required before I go jumping in head-first.

In the meantime, though, I am also going to check out pastry arts courses that I can enroll in, in addition to apprenticing or interning at any bakery that will take me on as an apprentice.

Thanks again for keeping my head grounded while my heart wants to fly with this dream and passion of mine.



mimifix's picture


Greetings again!

Many people go through life having no passion for anything. You are blessed to be so excited about all things bakery-related. You haven't wasted years day dreaming, you've spent years building your enthusiasm and skill. And now you're ready.

Go to school and take courses. Apprentice with a bakery. Get an entry-level job in a food business. Or bake and sell at a farmers' market or street fair.

And I don't want to hear about how years have passed you by and you're too old. At 52, after having several hand surgeries, I was immensely sad. My baking career was over and I was old. After feeling sorry for myself (talk about wasting time) I returned to school when I was 54 and got a masters degree. And then I wrote a book and started a website (which was the hardest thing I've ever done). And now I'm 60 and teach you young folk how to bake and start home-based food businesses.

You have an assignment: Make a list of possibilities, explore the options, then pick the best choice for you. We will be waiting here. Let us know which way you're heading.

Best! Mimi