Karen Shaw: The Baker Behind Rise Bakehouse

We had the pleasure of meeting (and eating!) with Karen Shaw, the woman behind Rise Bakehouse that opened this year on Old Street.

In her own words, Karen lets us in on the passion behind the Bakehouse and why, even in uncertain economic times, independent business is always worth every penny.

 

“I have spent decades working with food. I was born and raised in the hospitality industry and my life has been shaped by that. Some of my earliest memories are of a large, bustling kitchen staffed entirely by women in a central London pub run by my parents. Each day they would prepare, from scratch a two course, set lunch menu for up to 100 people. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients they produced simple, delicious dishes day in day out. In those days ‘safety’ in kitchens was based on common sense rather than formal regulations and, as a consequence, I was welcomed into the space and given useful and meaningful small tasks. As an only and sometimes lonely child that kitchen and the women in it felt like a community, a community of cooks. It is a feeling of belonging that has never left me and something I seek to recreate at Rise.”

 

 

“In recent years I took over Brockley Farm Shop in 2011 and really found my feet. Renaming it Brockley Stores I set about creating and developing a range of products prepared and cooked in a tiny space at the rear of the shop. In my 6 years there I worked with a small, dedicated, team and cooked tirelessly, 7 days a week, gaining a strong local following. It was both the hardest and most rewarding time of my life.

Having had time to rest and regroup, the idea for a bakery grew slowly. Always a curious cook I wanted to learn how to make bread, really good bread. Lots of experiments and many, many failed loaves followed!

Those early failures weren’t a deterrent, they were both inevitable and invaluable! To me, the challenge and appeal of creating bread was that it required so much more than just following a formula. I needed to acquire a whole new set of skills. Creating consistently good bread, sourdough in particular, involves understanding a huge number of variables. All bakers need to develop an ‘instinct’ for the dough in order to get the best out of it: the last year or so has seen me both develop and hone those instincts.”

I have also been fortunate to spend time visiting and working in bakeries big and small, across the country, gaining valuable experience. Learning from others, making connections and forming new friendships has been part and parcel of learning to bake bread. Working out what it was I wanted to do with my new found skills has taken time.

 

 

At the start of this year, with so much doom, gloom and despondency around the world, the economy in the doldrums and inflation at an all-time high my thoughts of opening a small bakery seemed foolish. The set up and running costs felt overwhelming and I very nearly walked away from the idea. But, I kept baking, remained enthralled by it, and couldn’t let it go.”

The rest as they say is history! Rise Bakehouse Clevedon is open every Saturday from 8.30am until 2.00pm