30th August 2016
Swifts Bakery is a fifth generation family business with 150 years history in the Midlands. They have always had a passion for creating new ideas for bread, both for wholesale and over-the-counter to customers in our four shops. Their aim is to help people enjoy real bread and to support the artisan trade to which they proudly belong. We interviewed artisan Baker Robert Swift for the latest in our blog series for Ludlow Food Festival 2016.
Richard C Swift Ltd - Swifts Bakery
5th generation Artisan baker with 25 years experience and a director of the company.
In three words describe your business:
quality, history, determination
Tell us what readers can expect when they find you at the Ludlow Food Festival?
As regards our stall you will find a vast variety of breads, international and speciality creations of our own. It won't quite look like the bread you see from day to day; we like to think a little bit more outside the bread tin. With my demo we will be trying to show a few different things this year all in one demo. We are looking to have blast this year and show people all that Ludlow has to offer.
As a family it all started with my great great great aunt who made bread for the street to make ends meet after the death of her husband.
This then just grew and grew and came down through the generations to the point where we now have my eldest son, the 6th generation, who has completed his first year of his apprenticeship. As for myself it's something I have always known since I was born, being put in front of the delivery van from a very early age to working before and after school, school holidays and weekends, then at 16 starting full time in the bakery on the bottom rung of the ladder as it were, and I worked my way up from there.
Who have your influences been in creating and building your business?
Well, as it's a family business the influences are those from within really. For me it was my grandparents and my parents. When you are this close to what's happening you see first hand just what it takes and what it means to run a business like this. When I look back and understand what our family gave for the following generations then you can only work with a sense of pride and passion and determination to carry it forward. I have also had the privilege of working with a lot of talented people, not just those in the baking industry, and those influences are priceless.
Tell us about you appearance on TV and what impact that has had on your business?
Any appearances on the TV are beneficial. It's the society we live in. People have reacted to it even more so in the last few years. We have been very fortunate to have had that experience. I personally appeared on the first Britain's Best Bakery where we won through to represent the whole of Shropshire against other bakeries across the country. Following that I have done pieces with the Hairy Bikers and Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. The most recent experience was the well documented Victorian Bakers which saw my brother take the reins and experience a little of what our ancestors must have had to go through. He got so much out of it, both personally and professionally, but I think, overwhelmingly, he got a sense of pride, empathy and respect.
John Swift, Victorian Bakers | Image from the Shropshire Star
With all that has been achieved in your business so far, what are you most proud of?
This is actually quite a simple, short answer to this. The fact that after 6 generations and over 150 years the name and the skills are still here. It's the best way we, today, can say thank you and show how we feel about those in our family who sacrificed so much to give us this legacy.
What are you looking forward to most about the Ludlow Food Festival?
To be honest, it really is a great thrill to be part of it. You get to engage with new customers but also to see the customers who,for the rest of the year, support our business. Without them we have nothing. It's also great to see the town so vibrant and buzzing with life. I know it can be seen as a nuisance but, honestly, from the point of view of a retail outlet without it, the town itself would struggle for the rest of the year. It does bring repeat business which in the harder months of the year is vital to us all.
Quick Fire Get To Know You Questions:
Favourite Colour? White and yellow.
Favourite Food? Difficult this one?? I do enjoy a good Sunday roast, but, ultimately, I enjoy food that's fresh, flavoursome, and well cooked; that could range from a burger or thai/asian style cooking.
Favourite tipple? Well, I am partial to a good single malt, 10 or 15 years old should do, but for an everyday drink a nice real ale such as Ludlow Gold or Old Henry.
Favourite Restaurant? Well, how to upset a lot of people quickly! I get the chance to work with a lot of great chefs locally and further afield, so I also get to sample a lot of what they produce, which is a great perk of the job. As this is Ludlow Food Festival though, I would just like to give a mention to all the restaurants in Ludlow as we are now beginning to see some real strides in putting the town back where it was a few years ago; places such as Mortimers, Fishmore Hall and Old Downton Lodge are creating some great menus and dishes and also push each other to strive for better. It's an exciting time again.
Hobby? Well, not really a lot of time for that to be honest! Spending time doing as much as I can with my family is important as they put up with a lot and I am partial to watching quite a bit of football, which does take me around the country following, for my sins, Leeds United (no comments please!).
Favourite place to visit in Shropshire? I don't really have a favourite place but as I spend so much time going here and there everywhere I always know when I am back in Shropshire. This county really has something beautiful to share.
Robert Swift will be doing a demo on the Graeme Kidd Stage at 1pm on Saturday 10th September. You will be able to buy their wonderful artisan bread all weekend. Find Swifts Bakery online at http://www.swifts-bakery.co.uk
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