At Magnacool, we are always interested to see the innovation and experimentation of artisan bakers. They produce beautiful breads and push the boundaries of baking in their pursuit of perfection. Whilst most artisan bakers are small in their scale, we share their love for their craft and recognise it is quite frequently the first steps of journey that will take them to larger scale production. We spoke to Darrin Romp, owner of The Hampshire Real Bread Company to find out about how he found his passion for baking and grew his business.
1. Please can you tell us about yourself and your bakery?
My name is Darrin Romp and I’m a 53 year old, married father of 4 daughters.
I originally trained as an architect and am currently working for an architectural practice in Chichester but since 2015, I have developed my microbakery business, The Hampshire Real Bread Company, based at my home address. From selling my first loaf to a work colleague in that autumn of 2015, I began to bake and sell from home on the occasional Saturday and this has now developed into running regular stalls in West Sussex & Hampshire as well as now supplying a coffee shop, farm shop and delicatessen with breads, pastries and doughnuts through the week. In 2018, we built an extension to the house which included a dedicated kitchen space for the bakery and has provided us with the potential to develop the business even further.
2. How and when did you discover your passion for baking?
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and so it was when I headed away from home for the first time to university in Wales, armed with a copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course, and necessity dictated that I needed to cook. From this sprung a love of cookery, good food and a passion to bake. The passion for baking really evolved from a desire for comfort food and it was also a great way to unwind. I started to take bakes into work and the feedback was always positive so things really developed from there. With the onset of a young family, it became more important to understand food provenance and what exactly goes into the food we buy and eat. From this grew an increasing desire to make our own food, and particularly good bread, made simply at home and from great ingredients. Following courses at a local artisan bakery and River Cottage, it fired my passion further and, after attending a microbakery course in September 2015, I then had the confidence to sell my first loaf.
3. Do you have a speciality?
I specialise in making a range of sourdoughs, which are the king of breads made from just 3 simple ingredients – flour, water & salt. A labour of love, they take time and patience but the results are always worth the effort and there is almost something magical in producing such a delicious product from a relatively humble set of ingredients. Our doughnuts and cinnamon swirls have also developed something of a cult following and always prove popular on the stalls.
4. What are your plans for the future?
Ultimately, the plan would be to be able to develop the business further to the point where it becomes my full-time business. With the dedicated kitchen space I now have at home, there is scope to be able to increase production and provide daily supplies to local cafes, restaurants, etc as well as look to run additional local stalls where there is an increasing desire to shop local and purchase quality, artisan produce. Breadmaking classes would also be something we would look to offer at some point.
5. Do you have a baking idol/hero/mentor?
There is a very strong and supportive community of bakers on social media, always ready with advice and tips, and there are a number of people I follow who have been very helpful in developing my knowledge as a self-taught baker. Jane Mason, the founder of Virtuous Bread and Bread Angels which is a world-wide network of bakers dedicated to teaching about good bread. It was after attending Jane’s microbakery course and her encouragement to get out there and sell a loaf of your own bread that The Hampshire Real Bread Co. was born. Without Jane’s expertise, encouragement and dedication to creating such a supportive network, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now and where I hope to be in the future. Another inspirational figure has been Wayne Caddy, the Head of Baking at The School of Artisan Food in Nottingham where I attended a 3-day course in 2016. The knowledge and skills learnt on the course have been invaluable in developing the breads and pastries I now make regularly.
6. Where can people buy your baking?
People are able to buy from my stall that I run fortnightly on Saturdays at Drapers Yard in Chichester as well our monthly stall at the Hampshire Farmers Market in Emsworth. A selection of breads and pastries is also available from the Tuppenny Barn Farm Shop (every Thursday) near Southbourne as well as through the week at The Refillery, Drapers Yard. Common Grounds coffee shop in Little London, Chichester has been a big supporter of ours and regularly stocks our doughnuts, cinnamon swirls and croissants as well as providing toasted sandwiches made using our sourdough. It’s also possible to order direct with us through our website, hampshirerealbread.co.uk, or via our Facebook business page for collection.
We really enjoyed sitting with Darrin and learning more about his passion for baking. This is just the first in our series of Q&A’s with artisan bakers. If you are a baker or know a baker that would like to be featured, get in touch!