Called the ‘staff of life’ because it is a basic food that supports life in almost every global culture, the world of bread is vast and varied. However, by using only the highest quality ingredients, Wildflour bakery in Innishannon has risen above the fray to become a West Cork favourite. Owner and head baker Chris Fahey speaks to West Cork People about his baking adventure.
Surprisingly it was a Netflix documentary that provided the impetus for Tipperary-born Chris to take up bread-making in the first place. “Food writer Michael Pollen inspired me to start baking in 2016,” he says, “After seeing his documentary ‘Cooked’, I was fascinated with the way he spoke about bread and it was my first time seeing the sourdough process.”
‘Cooked’ examined the primal human need to cook and issued a clarion call for a return to the kitchen in order to reclaim lost traditions and restore balance to our lives.
“Once I started baking bread I became addicted.”
Chris had always had a yearning to run his own business, an idea that had matured as he gathered life experiences. “I thought there was an opening in Cork for real bread so I started baking in a wood-fired pizza oven and selling bread from the boot of my car,” he explains.
Word started to spread and, when the time was right, Chris made the decision to expand; “After working in the city for years and seeing what the pandemic did to businesses there, I thought it was better to move outside the city.”
A Daft search of potentials threw up a building on Innishannon’s Main Street but Chris initially wasn’t keen: “My wife’s uncle convinced me that if we cut down a few walls, we could make a go of it.”
After months of hard graft and a total overhaul of the premises, Chris’s dream of a bricks and mortar bakery shop was realised in August 2021. “I’m delighted it worked out because the village of Innishannon has been amazingly supportive!”
The Wildflour ethos is to use chemical-free flour from farms that are concerned about soil health and quality grain rather than getting the most grain possible from a field. Current suppliers are Wildfarmed in the UK and Oak Forest Mills in Kilkenny.
“This makes the flour we use more nutritious and it actually tastes better too,” Chris promises.
But man cannot live by bread alone so Wildflour actually now makes more pastries than bread! “This empire is built with butter,” Chris jokes. “Most of our pastries are laminated, croissant-based dough, also using chemical free flour plus fantastic pastry butter from Normandy in France.”
When asked about his favourite aspect of being self-employed, Chris cites creative freedom. “If I have an idea I don’t have to pitch it to anyone, I can just do it.”
Chris is now living in Drimoleague and expecting his first child with wife Michelle. “That’s going to be my main hobby for a while!” he acknowledges, “but other than that I’m big into growing veg in the garden. I think everyone should be growing something! I also love cooking. Even after a long day at work I’d be happy to cook up a storm and wreck the kitchen.”
For naturally leavened bread, hand-made pastries and quality coffee from Stone Valley, visit Wildflour Bakery in Innishannon. Open Wed-Fri 7.30am-3pm, Sat-Sun 9am-3pm. Bread and pastries are also available in a few select cafés and shops around the city and West Cork.
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