Salcombe Baker

We’re all familiar with the smell of fresh croissants on Salcombe’s Fore Street first thing in the morning, but what does the man behind the baked goods have for breakfast?  Following from our article on Salcombe’s Finest Adventurer, we chatted to The Bake House’s chief baker, Ben Holt-Wilson…

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What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I stumble out of bed at silly o’clock, usually around 3am, half blind with tiredness.  I put on my clothes (often back to front because I am dressing in the dark), and head to work.

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What’s the best breakfast to start the day in Salcombe?

Every morning I have a pain au chocolate, it makes me fat but when they’re coming out of the oven all warm and crispy with melted chocolate in the middle I just can’t help it!  My son has the same taste as me, but for my daughter breakfast has to be a warm baguette with salted butter.

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What’s unique about The Bake House?

I like to think we are authentic and that we are all the things that Greggs is not!  We make everything ourselves, right down to the pastry used for the pasties – it’s a family run, handmade food experience.  I also think that Salcombe itself makes us unique.  Fore Street is one of the few proper high streets left.  Home to a butcher, baker, sweetshop, grocer, it’s a traditional food street in modern times.

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What do you like most about your job?

It’s challenging and it challenges me.  I’m never bored, I am always stimulated, and I can see a progression in the business.  I also love working with my hands and creating beautiful things.

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What has been your best experience at work?

Teaching myself how to make wonderful products.  There’s a famous American baker called Thomas Keller who says that you can’t hide anything about the bread (or about yourself) when you are making a baguette – that’s true!  It is so difficult to perfect a baguette and I am really proud of what we have created.  I learned from my father-in-law and there was a lot of trial and error, but I think we have just about got it!

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What’s been your strangest experience at work?

Dealing with humanity – human beings and their strange requests.  Whether it’s customers or employees, seeing the nuances of human behavior means that work is never boring.

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Which one item can’t you resist at The Bake House?

The pastries!  Every day after my pain au chocolate I say to myself  ‘I won’t have one tomorrow’, but by 6am with that early start all I can think is that I could really do with one!

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What are you looking forward to most in 2015?

The next three years will be a big period of transition for us.  We took over the business from my parents-in-law seven years ago and have strong plans for progress.  We are opening a new shop at the top of Salcombe, bringing in more products and plan to create a food hall experience.

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When you’re not filling Fore Street with the mouthwatering smell of baking, what do you like to do in Salcombe?

I have loved surfing since I was a young boy and it has taken me all over the world, so I love doing that.  Two children under the age of 10 consume a lot of time, and I love all things nature.  I have a beautiful garden filled with flowers to attract bees and wildlife.  My ambition is to buy fields to grow more flowers in – I would be very happy in my 80s if I was wandering around the garden.

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What’s your favourite thing about the South Hams?

I like the people that I meet every day.  There is such an enterprising attitude in Salcombe and there are a lot of interesting people here – you never know who you are going to get to talk to.  Of course, the countryside is also wonderful – that’s one of the reasons I’m here after all!

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