So here we are...Apparently we are at the point where it feels that "It's time to start a Blog!". I always loved taking notes and keep a personal diary that I update every now and then when something noticeable happen in my life, it keeps me aware of what is happening around me and to me! The beginning of this blog is definitely going to take few lines on my diary!
I am not sure what this blog will look like but it will have a sweet taste, this is for sure...we're going to
talk about cupcakes, cakes, baking, ingredients, pastry chef life, markets, London sweet scene and anything have sugar in it! I'm going to post about me and the challenges and joy of start your own business, how this have an impact in my life and specially in my relationship, because YES my partner in life is also my business partner!
That in the picture is me, Silvia, born in a paradise called Sardinia (Italy) but leaving in London 4 years and half now. My mother tongue is obviously Italian so forgive my mistakes :)
My baking passion started when I was really young has my grandmother was a baking psychopath and it really seems I have her genes! She was passionate about everything could raise, I grew up really close to her I was super fascinated from the magic happening in her kitchen.. From an hour to the other she could grow bread dough underneath a blanket…how could she do that??? I was to little to understand the chemistry behind it and for me she was my Fairy!
I've started my own baking path when in high school, creating cakes for my First Love: every occasion was good to bake…Saint Valentine, birthdays, even when he passed the driving license test! My mum was always desperate because the cakes most of the time were for him and she was always saying: "This is the last whole cake that goes out of this house!". Then it happened that for her birthday I baked a cake, but my brother (Nicola Stocchino, super talented Head Chef now working in Dubai) forgot was her birthday and he decided to taste it!!! Luckily the cake was rectangular and I could fix it changing the shape into a square yey! Now I laugh when I remember that but I was quite upset with him! At that point I was 17 years old I think.
When I finished school I paused a bit my baking passion as I was to busy having fun! After changing University as you change shoes, I've decided that History Of Art was interesting enough to actually sit down and study, but being a proper Sagittarius I cannot sit still for very long before I get bored, so I've decided (with my Second Love) to move to Florence and finish my studies there, going back and forth to finish my exams and theses! In Florence life it was a bit hectic as I was studying and working as a waitress to earn some pennies to pay rent and food! In Florence my baking Pshycotic passion came back stronger than ever and it’s at that point that a dear friend (a sister I would say) and flatmate start to call me Fata Padella, which is a fairy holding a pan in her hand instead of the wand. Flatmates and neighbours were really happy to taste any sort of baked good: cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, bread, pies, fresh pasta and ravioli! First trials with sugar paste…not bad hey?
Baking was my stress relief way to survive, my daily dose of meditation and my Second Love suggested to start baking classes at the Cordon Bleu, and so I did. After almost 4 years in Florence and a degree in History of Art that it was looking pretty useless, we moved to London, where my brother was leaving! A month after I found my first job as a baker Oh Yes! I've started baking cakes, cupcakes and muffin (while making some coffee and cappuccinos) in a coffee shop!
London can be a really tough city at the beginning, specially if you don't speak a word English at all and if you split with your Second Love after 6 years together! (Please don't ask how I could find a job without speak English because it's still a mystery to me nowadays!)
After few months here, I've decided that I needed to meet people and make some friends. The best idea I had was to find a capoeira group, a Brazilian martial art that I was already playing in Italy, where I not only found a really welcoming family but even...my Third (biggest) Love, Yannis, which is the partner in life that I mentioned on the first few lines! He had the patience to teach me English (bless him forever!) along with the help of all our wonderful friends!
What happened after the baking experience at the coffee shop? After almost 3 months I've decided that I wanted to progress on that path and build up a career as a pastry chef but I needed someone that could lead me so I've quitted and found a job at the Royal Albert Hall working for a catering company called Rhubarb Food Design. There I found a very special French chef called Frank that help me to learn the basics in a professional crazy busy kitchen, so had to be a very fast learner! Here a picture of me swimming in a pot of chocolate mousse and a picture of thousand of shot glasses filled with mousses and various delicious creams!
A year late I moved Unit, always working for the same company, and start working with the most talented and sweet pastry chef Sarah Crouchman, now co-founder of Pretty Sweet, that helped me even further! I totally enjoyed my time with Sarah not only as a constant professional growing but it was so much fun working on the team with her, Marco and Terry (founder of Fraise Sauvage)! From all of them I've learned precious secrets and I've also made friendships...lucky me!!!
The bottom line is that working for Rhubarb it's been for me like a school but being paid!
After that experience the idea to create FairyPan was start scratching my head but mostly Yannis head and he was trying to push me into it but I could feel it wasn't the right time and I wasn't ready for the big adventure. So I as I was thinking about FairyPan I've been offered a lifetime opportunity to work as a New Product Developer at Honeyrose Bakery and I couldn't really refuse! Honeyrose Bakery is a hand baking bakery that produce cookies, bars and cakes for it’s own Organic label, but also Kant & Fraser gluten free cookies and savoury crackers and have a large production for M&S, from gluten free cookie, to savoury crackers and baby cookies and bars.
My 2 years in Honeyrose Bakery haven't always been easy, actually Lise (Lise Madsen is the founder and manager director) gave me really hard time as she is a perfectionist but I've survived and I came out much stronger than before and I'm really grateful to her for the opportunity and all the things I've learned! So many times I've cried and I wanted to give up every week, but day after day I was coming back and there I learned than I'm more stubborn that I thought and I am stronger that I thought! I’ve learned to be persistent and not accept a No as first answer without inquiry the reasons, I’ve learned about high hygiene standard, I’ve learn to raise my voice and I’ve learned about my limits and my ambitions.
My tasks were lots: from researching and developing recipes, baking them and improving over and over and over again until Lise was happy (again she is a Perfectionist, with capital P), always keeping an eye on costs, sourcing new ingredients and dealing with suppliers, running nutritional values, then looking into packaging, train the bakers and the packers, prepare for the launch of the new products and pass it to the production managers. It was the first time I had my own desk, which was always a mess full of samples that suppliers were sending me to do my experiments with recipes…sometimes was hard to find the keyboard! Also I had to learn how to run packing machine and scooping machines, monsters that cut the cookies into shapes…once we had a nightmare designing a star shape for a Christmas cookie for M&S... Lise and I spent days and days and lots of trials on that, that I think I should add this mould design experience on my CV!
Those below are some of the products I’ve worked on, other were just seasonal (Christmas e.i.).
With them I've launched 15 products that are now currently in M&S shelves...and most important I've survived!!!!
I was going to write about Fairypan in this post but it’s longer than I thought and I’ll leave that story for my next blog post!