Richard Bertinet is well-loved and well-known for being the UK’s baking ‘godfather’. His books about baking and his bread-making courses alike have delighted audiences for many years. Sally Thomson caught up with him to discuss books, baking and BBC Maestro, where you can catch him offering the ultimate online bread-making course…
HOW ARE YOU ON THIS GLORIOUS DAY?
Making croissants with this weather! It’s a bit hot in the kitchen but it’s nice to be open again so all is good.
YOU ARE DOING WONDERFULLY WELL AT THE MOMENT APART FROM THE FACT WE HAVE ALL BEEN THROUGH THIS RATHER INTERESTING YEAR THINGS SEEM TO BE GOOD WITH YOU.
We opened in April and we have just tried to push everything we could this year and last year. It’s very busy.
SO, PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO COME TO YOUR CLASS NOW?
Yes, we reopened in April.
SO, THESE CURRENT RESTRICTIONS HAVEN’T CHANGED YOUR PLANS?
No, we are Covid compliant and can still have the same number of people. In Bath 40% of the customers come from the rest of the World so Japan, The States and Australia. Obviously, they cannot come to Bath at the moment so we have a massive backlog of people wanting to come when they can travel*.
YOU NEED TO BE CLONED SO THAT THERE IS ANOTHER ONE OF YOU AND YOU CAN KEEP UP!
That’s true but there is only one of me I’m afraid.
WHEN YOU FIRST CAME INTO BATH IN 2005 DID YOU EXPECT YOUR CAREER TO TAKE OFF AS IT DID?
I knew the concept we had was good and if it worked out, we would have success. When I first moved to Bath a lot of local businesses gave us 6 months to survive but that made me more determined to make it.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR COOKERY SCHOOL – IT’S GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH BY THE SOUNDS OF IT? Well, the school has been going since 2005 and since then we have won a lot of awards, we then sold the bakery and a lot of things have happened in 15 years. The school is so busy it’s a worldwide attraction which means we bring a lot of people to Bath. We won the South West Tourism Award two years ago due to the number of people that we attract to Bath.
We have a few guest chefs coming in as well, but the core classes are with me learning about bread making, as well as what I write about in my books.
YOU HAVE SO MANY ACCOLADES AND EVERYBODY ENJOYS WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING.
We pride ourselves on the services we give our customers and also the way I teach is quite unique – I’m very hands on. Our school is quite small so it means that I can spend time with everybody.
I SEE THAT YOU OFFER CLASSES FOR CHILDREN, HOW DO YOU FIND THAT?
Teaching children was always very important to us and we also work with a lot of local schools in the area and teach some classes plus talk to the children. It’s good fun and nice to see them smile when they try something that they haven’t done before. I think it’s a shame that so many schools don’t use cooking and baking anymore.
I SEE THAT YOU ALSO WORK WITH PING COOMBES.
Yes, Ping does classes for me. She teaches Malaysian cooking plus stuff from my book.
YOU HAVE PRODUCED 6 BOOKS SO FAR. HAVE YOU GOT ANYMORE IN THE PIPELINE OR DO YOU NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME?
I’ve got a couple of ideas but it’s getting the time to do it and I like to write a book for the right purpose not just for the sake of it so I need to get the time and wait until things get back to normal.
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU ARE GETTING BACK TO NORMAL?
Until we get all our backlog of people who couldn’t attend last year’s classes hopefully then we will be back on an even keel but not yet I’m afraid. We are open and running and there are some businesses that can’t do that so in a way we are one of the lucky ones.
I HEAR THAT YOU WILL BE GETTING INVOLVED WITH BBC MAESTRO.
Yes, it’s been amazing. We have just finished editing. I absolutely loved it! It’s a challenge to do live broadcasts, it’s recipe lead and different from how I teach in my classes, but it was well done. The team were amazing.
YOU HAVE BEEN ON OTHER COOKERY SHOWS SO DID YOU FIND THAT THIS WAS A STEP UP?
Yes, I’ve been on Saturday Kitchen and on James Martin’s show so it’s a different buzz being filmed live and you have to be mindful of what you do and say.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WILL BE SPECIALISING IN?
It’s specifically about bread and things I like to do at home. It goes from making brioche, sourdough to bagels, all that kind of stuff and things to give people the confidence to bake at home and feel that they learn something. It’s going to be good. The production team was amazing, and I can’t wait for it to launch.
YOU ARE FROM BRITTANY HAVE YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO GO BACK RECENTLY?
We went to France last year, Provence. We have a house down there and managed to visit just before lockdown.
*At the time of the interview there was uncertainty regarding travel to the city of Bath.
BBC Maestro with Richard Bertinet is available now at bbcmaestro.com. The course costs £80 for 23 episodes including written class notes for each one. An additional bonus festive episode is expected to launch later in the year exclusively to subscribers.