Diary

Why bread?

Why bread?

Somebody asked me this at the school drop off the other day. Why bread? Why is that your thing? Why did you make it your job?

It’s something I get asked a lot and it’s a question that I always struggle to answer off the cuff, and I guess it’s because it was never really about bread in the first place...

Making it work for live TV...

Television Centre

So London called...

It said “hey man, we’ve been looking for a bread expert to come and chat with us on Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 and hey presto, we came across this chap who’s made 100 videos on YouTube...”

Ok, so that’s not EXACTLY what they said but it is pretty much the gist ;-)

I was delighted! Not nervous. In fact, I was a little delighted but as with all things in “showbiz” these things come and go. I had been so close to being on TV before for a different show, literally prepped and ready to go the day before filming and the phone line went dead, only to receive an email two weeks later saying sorry but I didn’t make it. And so, without feeling negative about things, when the call came in I guess I felt a bit nothing really. After all things don’t happen until they happen and I knew that. This time things were a little different though, I was asked to come to London to meet with the producer and that hadn’t happened before…

So here was the deal, I would talk through four breads I had made, people (celebrities) were going to eat and share their opinion of my homemade bread live on Channel 4 before deciding which was their favourite and then telling the world. No Pressure. That meant that the bread had to be as close to fresh as possible at 10:33am on Sunday morning, and they were sending a car to pick me up at 6:20am.

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The plan was to bake everything on Saturday evening to various stages of “baked” then finish it off in the studio prep kitchen moments before going live, easy. But I was already booked for a private bread making course in somebodies home on the Saturday, leaving at 1pm and likely getting home at around 8pm. Not ideal. Here’s how I made it work…

I decided on the recipes early on, four breads that were good for beginners: black olive fougasse, seeded sandwich loaf, “no-knead” focaccia and hot cross buns since it was nearly Easter. I had a small window on Saturday morning to make the dough and a small oven to bake one or two before leaving the house for the day. I made all four of my doughs that morning.

Fougasse only needs a single rest, there’s no need to prove them up them up again after shaping and before baking, I was making six, and could part-bake two at a time for 10 minutes each before cooling and wrapping ready to finish off at the studio. Sorted.

If one of the breads was to be fully baked it would be the sandwich loaf as the size and shape of it would allow it to hold the moisture the best of them all for the longest, so in theory the fully baked loaves would still be relatively fresh the following day. I baked them fully on the Saturday morning. Two down, two to go.

The other two doughs I stashed in the fridge to chill and tick over nice and slowly for later while I was out for the day.

Now, if I returned home from my private course at 8pm and removed the dough from the fridge it would have taken a good 90 minutes to come back to room temperature before I could shape, prove and bake them. Then we are talking shaping at 9:30pm, baking two batches at 11pm & 11:45pm, in bed by 12:30 at night to wake up again at 5am to get ready, pack up and leave to go live on TV. Again, not ideal.

I did some maths and my wife and I had a chat.

If she could remove the dough from the fridge at 6pm while I was out teaching, it would be ready to shape upon my return shaving two clear hours of my evening bake making bedtime a far more sensible 10:30pm and that’s exactly what we did.

The following morning, I woke with nothing to do but to get ready and double check my packing list. The car arrived at 6:20am to pick me up, I loaded my things and spent the next 45 minutes chatting to the driver and getting increasingly nervous.

Bake with Jack on Sunday Brunch 1

The show was great! I had an hour and a half in the prep kitchen to finish everything off, cut tasters and dress the display before wheeling it to the studio and putting everything in place super fast during the ad break. Then 3, 2, 1, GO!

I was so nervous but it could not have been better. Everybody I came into contact with on the day was so lovely. There is a ton of work involved in creating a show like Sunday Brunch both on and off set, so many people involved, and as corny as it sounds they are like a big family. Even if somebody spent 40 seconds attaching my microphone to my jacket they would introduce themselves, ask me how I was and how I was feeling about going on. They really looked after me and the feature was a great success.

A whole day in preparation for 8 minutes on TV and it felt great. You guys across social media went ABSOLUTEY CRACKERS with your support. Thank you so much!

The reality is that the whole day I spent in preparation is nothing compared to time spent working hard since the day Bake with Jack was created. So really, that one day becomes 6 years in preparation.

Actually, you could say that without such a disjointed restaurant/hotel/event chef career, then Bake with Jack would never have been created in the first place. So then, perhaps we are 16 years in.

In fact. Without the slight disinterest I had in academic studies then perhaps I would have never put on those chef whites in the first place. I said I was playing the long game in a post last year. I said that I used to get laughed at when I dreamed of being on TV, and here we are, 32 years in and I made it to the slightly-bigger-than-your-telephone screen. YESSSSS!!!

Bake with Jack on Sunday Brunch 2

If you missed the show, I think it has disappeared now from All4 but at the time of writing this you can still catch up on my second appearance featuring a few of the breads from the new Summertime and BBQ bread course. If you are in the UK Click here to watch it in Episode 16 and scroll forward to 58 minutes in, after the Bake Off Professionals clip.

I said on Instagram that I hoped this could be the beginning of something great, and if it wasn’t then that would be ok too. It’s what I have been working towards for so long, for the most part without even knowing it, and when I look back on the past 6 or 16 or 32 years I realise that surely everything has been, and continues to be the beginning of something great. Even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Thank you all so much for watching and for your support before, during and after. I spent the next whole week after the show answering all of your comments, emails, tweets and messages on Instagram and Facebook and I hope I got them all!

Thanks for being part of this massive milestone with me, here’s to whatever happens next…

Bake with Jack on Sunday Brunch  Instagram

A Hero Passes

There are some hero’s that are in your life, and there are some you’ll probably never meet but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a huge influence on you.

Anthony Bourdain was a legend. A legend of cooking and a legend of writing. His honest accounts of the reality of the catering industry played a massive part in the life of 19 year old chef Jack. He was a huge inspiration because he spoke about a world we were part of, a flawed world, but a world to be hugely proud of nonetheless.

We all wanted to be him, we all wanted to work harder than him.

We all wanted our own stories to tell as well as he did and we got them. Thank you Anthony.

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