Bake and Brew is an innovative and fun concept; serving up delicious bakes and refreshing drinks on Devon’s famous 180-mile Tarka Trail. The brains and determination to get this business on two wheels came from entrepreneur, Kirk and I had the pleasure and fantastic opportunity to ask him a few questions about the first trike on the trail to be filling the bellies of passers-by.
Tell me about yourself, your background and previous career
I was a bit of a tear-away at school. I left when I was just 15, with no qualifications, knowing that the teachers probably thought I’d never do anything with my life.
I got a job as a waiter and became great friends with one of the chefs that I worked with, Tom. He took me under his wing and taught me few things, and it’s there that my passion for food begun.
After gaining some experience, I went to work in various holiday parks, pubs and restaurants, slowing gaining more and more experience. After some time, I took a job with two local chefs, Amy and Ellis – with their range of skills, they taught me everything they knew and encouraged me to get some qualifications in the industry. I took their advice, got the paperwork and a year later, I was a head chef.
When did your passion for baking start?
I do like to bake when I’ve got the right frame of mind, but usually, I don’t have the patience or discipline to follow a recipe. Lucky, my girlfriend, Eilidh loves to bake, and she is good at it too – so hands up – she is the master in the kitchen and puts the hard work into the goodies you see on the trail. She has a lifetime of experience, passed on from grandma and mum, so each bake is a true taste of a tried and tested recipe!
How did your Bake and Brew journey begin? Where did the idea come from? And how did you get the ball rolling?
Both Eilidh and myself love to eat street food; our interest and appetite began while we were on our travels. We would always see new and exciting food outlets popping up in a variety of vehicles, and I just thought, ‘we could do that.’
I’d always wanted to set up a food van, and I had my heart set on the perfect, idyllic and stunning location of the Tarka Trail in North Devon. With over a million users either cycling, running or walking along there every year, I felt something was needed; there was a niche in the market. After a quick online search, I discovered Devon County Council manages the Tarka Trail. After several emails, phone calls, research and a considerable number of months later, the council finally agreed to allow us on the trail (hurray). Our dream was slowly becoming a reality.
What did you do before you came up with bake and brew?
Before bake and Brew, I was a full-time chef, working early mornings, late nights, and split shifts until an unfortunate accident changed everything. It was a wake-up call and confirmed it was time to leave the heat of ‘the pass.’
What has been the biggest challenge or adventure that you have come across on your journey to where you are now?
The biggest challenge of the job is being outside, braving the weather. I’m a hearty soul, on the trail day in and day out, rain or shine.
The biggest adventure and what I love about it most is the welcome smile you get as tired and hungry people reach you. It makes them happy, my cheeky banter and tasty bakes cheer people up.
I love your cakes – what is your favourite bake creation and why?
I may be biased, but all of them! There is something for everyone. Being able to offer homemade bakes to suit a variety of customers is a pleasure.
With gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and wheat-free dietary requirements, the creativity in your baking must need to be up to scratch! Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for these cakes?
After discovering I had an intolerance to gluten and lactose, we started collecting speciality ‘free from’ books and searching the internet for recipes. It’s easier than ever to find inspiration with Instagram and Pinterest at your fingertips.
What is the most popular sweet treat you make?
Cyclists love a flapjack, children love the cookies and brownies, granola is the healthy option, and Rocky Road is a sweet treat for all. The best advice with baking, I think, is to trust your instincts and be patient, even the most experienced bakers fail.
So, you serve your delicious items from your bike, did you create the mode of transport yourself? What were your reasons for choosing to take to two wheels rather than four?
During a recent trip to Amsterdam, we saw stall after stall selling fresh juices, coffee and snacks from vans and the famous cargo bikes. This was it, the eco-friendly transport that I had dreamed of, I loved the idea instantly and spent hours upon hours trawling the internet looking at butcher’s bikes and Pashley ice cream trikes, but nothing seemed to be suitable for what I required. Until eventually, I found a lovely chap building tricycles online. From a simple drawing and countless late night phone calls, the bike and box were complete. A one of a kind, unique and eco-friendly tricycle that would get the Bake and Brew wheels rolling!
The 18-gear mountain bike could go anywhere, but I don’t like to push the limits too much, so when it’s not on the Tarka Trail, its safety stored nearby.
What is your funniest experience while working at Bake and Brew?
The funniest thing, I guess, is having my daughter working with me. Layla is five and has me in stitches most of the day. She loves to help serve customers, but when she thinks there’s no one around, she’ll make up songs and dance like a crazy person… Just like her Dadda!
Thank you, Kirk, for a fab catch-up, it’s been great to hear about your journey, and I wish you all the success for the future!