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Quit your job, become a… baker

Posted at 8:00 am, May 11, 2015 in Fun London

Ben MacKinnon

Ben MacKinnon, 35, baker and director at E5 Bakehouse

Photography ©Rob Greig

What did you do before becoming a baker?

‘I did a few things. I studied conservation biology and worked as a fishery observer off the Grand Banks of Canada on a trawler for a while, and then coordinated the programme from near Southampton.’

Well that sounds fun!

‘It was phenomenally boring. It was four months sitting at sea with a group of Galician fishermen who, by the end of it, hadn’t been on land for six months. The coordinating bit was interesting, I was working in a company that dealt in international fisheries development.’

Why would you leave that?

‘I was sat behind a desk, and it just didn’t feel right to me. So I took some time out, did some travelling, spent time on some organic farms, decided to retrain in renewable energy and then worked as a consultant for a big engineering firm in London. But I was almost having panic attacks in the office because I was so distressed by how monotonous it was. So once again I stepped out.’

And THEN you became a baker?

‘I spent some time reflecting, earthing and exploring. I was getting interested in the world of food from a production angle. I baked a loaf of bread and thought: Maybe I could be a baker. The idea took hold and I did a one-week course at the School of Artisan Food near Sheffield five years ago.’

So how did you get properly started?

‘I contacted a pizza place in Clapton, asked if I could use their wood-fired pizza oven in their downtime, and they agreed. I was making the dough in a friend’s basement and baking it there, and set up a delivery round of about 20 local people every week. I then built my own wood-fired oven in an arch and it just grew from there. Now we have our own arch, ten bakers and a café, and we teach baking too.’

What do you do day-to-day?

‘At least one day a week I’m mixing the bread dough and shaping it, one day a week I’m teaching, and then for the rest of the week I’m helping with the direction of the company. I don’t regret any of those past careers. For me, it’s just an evolution.’

Hours: 40hrs p/w

Starting salary: £19,000 p/a

Qualifications: A baking qualification is preferable

Interview by Eddy Frankel

Or why not become a tattooist?

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