Co Down ‘Krazi Baker’ Mark Douglas takes NI Bread Hero crown
Co Down baker Mark Douglas has been crowned Northern Ireland’s ‘Bread Hero’ in the Tiptree World Bread Awards – which this year is recognising bakers who went the extra mile during the pandemic to serve their communities.
The Dromore man, 55, launched his business, Krazi Baker, eight years ago after being inspired by food markets he had seen in continental Europe.
It struck him that although many other foods were on offer, nobody was selling bread baked on-site.
“You’d see every product under the sun, but never bread baked on-site,” Mark said.
“I was wondering how to do this and when I went back to work. The answer was staring me in the face - hotplates and soda bread.”
Mark now bakes on hotplates on site at markets, such as Newtownards, Comber and Carrickfergus and agri-food shows such as The Balmoral Show, Castlewellan Show and the Antrim Garden Show.
Customers wolf down his bakes, which include iconic items such as a wide range of sweet and savoury soda farls as well as potato bread, as fast as he can make them.
His ethos is to bake bread by hand with no additives, preservatives or bread improvers - just natural bread.
Unfortunately Mark’s business was hit hard when the restrictions of Covid halted markets, shows and baking classes.
Not to be defeated, he established a home delivery service, making countless deliveries in two Fiat 500s as far afield as Katesbridge and Newtownards.
“Our market business really ended as lockdown began, but thankfully the home delivery business really took off quite steadly from then on,” he said.
He also runs the ‘Krazi Soda School’ for members of the public from a specially made outbuilding in his garden, which also doubles as his preparation kitchen.
“I have been a baker for 39 years,” he said.
“I started off aged 16 with my uncle in a bakery in Moira at the time. That was 1982 and he needed an apprentice.
“I had just left school and there was not much in the line of work. So I was sort of shovelled out the door to start the bakery. So I have been a baker all my life.”
In normal times, the Tiptree World Bread Awards have over a dozen categories for various types of bread.
However during the pandemic, the emphasis has shifted to the people behind the bread, recognising innovative bakers and how they adapted to serve their communities.
Hundreds of nominations were sent in from across the UK.
“All the nominees in this year’s awards truly deserve recognition for their generous, considerate and often altruistic initiatives to help others.” said Stephen Hallam, chairman of the Judges.
Mark can be contacted via www.krazibaker.co.uk
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