Self-taught Eden baker Mike Hall has been named on a prestigious roll of honour as he continues an amazing rise and mixes with major industry names.
For 30 years, Mike was employed as a salesman and travelled all over the UK.
But 61-year-old Mike’s working life took on a new flavour when he moved to Newbiggin-on-Lune five years ago and began to bake.
“It was absolutely pure chance,” he said.
“Baking was just a hobby, a bit of pleasure and it all developed from there.”
But it prompted Mike to launch Brough-based business Ivy Cottage Baker which highlights his passion for making bread using natural yeast and with the addition of seasonal ingredients.
He quickly made a name for himself in the industry as he won gold during his first appearance the World Bread Awards, in 2017, with a beetroot and thyme recipe.
Two years later he scooped silver and bronze accolades with cheese and chilli, and soda bread respectively.
And this year he was nominated for the competition as it took on a new look amid a changing COVID climate.
Normally scores of judges cast their expert eyes over presented products and test them for look, taste and feel.
But for 2020, event organisers instead invited nominations for heroes awards as they sought to honour the people behind the loaf.
Mike’s name was put forward and although he didn’t win a main prize in a ceremony which was streamed online, his efforts were commended with a special “roll of honour” mention.
“The feedback I’ve had is fantastic. I was surprised to be nominated,” he admitted.
“I’ve been absolutely amazed by how far I’ve come.
“When I think that four years ago I couldn’t bake a loaf of bread and now I make so many varieties.”
These include everything from best sellers such as sour doughs and malted multi-seeds to orange and marmalade, and cheese and Marmite — and even rare treats such as chocolate and currant sourdough which are produced for special occasions.
“It’s also special to be up against some of the people I’m up against. There are some big names — companies which employ thousands of people,” he added.
Before this year, Mike had expanded his repertoire to offer cookery and bread-making courses in the South Lakes in partnership with Create Escape Cumbria.
He also attended markets and agricultural shows, and gave talks and demonstrations, although these have been halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But during lockdown Mike made deliveries across Upper Eden which take place on Mondays and Fridays and these, he said, were “really appreciated” by customers.
His working days typically involve 14 to 16-hour shifts and, he says, see him “start when the cockerel sounds”.
Mike is married to Marcella, who has brought out a childhood memory recipe book, My Taste of Tuscany, and also brings influences from her native country to Mike’s business with tasty Italian treats.