Rebecca Fry toasts the success of Andy Cook, owner of lockdown startup Plattsville Bakehouse Liverpool
I’ve always been told that in any bad situation you should try and look for the silver lining. But in a year-long lockdown that saw us finding our only joy in daily ‘Boris’ walks, dodgy home box-dye jobs and clapping on our doorsteps with neighbours we’ve never met, finding something positive to come out of this seemed unlikely.
If people buy from the cafes they’re supporting the cafe who in turn support me - so we’re all looking after each other.
But there are always shining stars in the darkness and one of those is Andy Cook, the owner and personality behind one of Liverpool’s biggest up and coming bread suppliers. In less than a year, Plattsville Bakehouse has gone from a home-based neighbourhood bakery to the primary bread supplier to loads of Liverpool’s best indie restaurants, bars and cafes.
We met up with Andy in his newly opened bakery unit, to grill him about his bread, find out about his loaf of baking and raise a toast to a new small business finding its feet amongst the chaos.
Let’s start at the bready beginning. How did Plattsville Bakehouse come about?
“It all started last April. I had a plan to set up my own adventure company. That’s what I’ve been doing for years, for high flyers and corporate clients. I had loads of work lined up for the year, some here in the UK and some abroad in Costa Rica. I was really looking forward to it. I was baking for the Baltic (Bakehouse) up until March last year, gave my notice and left to focus on this outdoors thing. It was all going sweet for like, a month, and then COVID hit and I just lost all my work. I was like. ‘What am I going to do now?'
“I was talking to my girlfriend one evening. She’s very community-minded. We posted notes up and down our road saying: Here’s our number, let us know if you need anything - like picking up shopping and prescriptions and stuff. She suggested we offer to bake some bread for anybody who was housebound or isolating. We have a WhatsApp chat for our road, I posted on there that I was thinking of doing some bread and if anybody was interested to let me know. I went out for a walk, came back an hour later and there was something like 20 orders. I was like, ‘Fuck!’
"It just got bigger, week on week to the point where I started running out of space in the kitchen and physically couldn’t do any more in a day. From 7 ‘til 7 I had to just take over the kitchen. More people wanted bread than we could cater for so we started to do a bread lottery. When it got to that stage and it was getting popular I thought, 'I can make something out of this.'
"So I stepped up my game, started baking more days and more hours in our tiny little oven. I got this place [the bakery unit] in September. It was basically a garage and I had to kit the whole place out. The extractor, the walls, the oven.
"I'd started baking for a couple of wholesale clients, just really small at first - making a few bits for Vietnom and Nomadd. Then more people in the industry took note of what I was doing and came to me asking for bread. I felt bad saying no to everybody because I just couldn’t do it from my house. So the moment I moved in here I already had a waiting list as long as my arm so I got on the blower to them saying, 'I can sort you out now'. Been flying since September.”
Where did you learn how to make bread?
“I’ve been baking for like 10 years now, 7 of which were amateur baking at home just discovering and learning. I started to enjoy it more and more and then a job opened up at the Baltic and I went for it. My knowledge had built up over the years and then hit a plateau - there’s only so much you can do at home. But when I started at the Baltic I started learning so much every day, it was boss.”
Has your product range changed much since you started? I spied a black loaf on your website last week.
“Yeah, to keep things fresh. I’ve been playing with some sweet stuff like babka and cinnamon rolls. The guy I’ve hired used to be a chef so he’s working on some proper pastry stuff at the moment - sausage rolls, pies and stuff. We want to expand the range, get some little snacks going for the cafes and delis. We’ve done a few specialist loaves for Skaus. We did the fermented black garlic loaf last week and this week I’m playing around with sprouted lentils. The guys at Vietnom have worked with me to develop the specific bread they need for Bahn Mi (a type of Vietnamese sandwich), they’ve been so supportive and given me feedback every step of the way.”
Are you still selling to private customers? (Hint, hint)
“Not anymore, no. I couldn’t look after the wholesale clients and still do a twice-weekly domestic sale for around my local area. It was a really inefficient use of time and my bread was selling in the cafes five minutes down the road so it seemed silly competing against my own stockists. If people buy from the cafes they’re supporting the cafe who in turn support me - so we’re all looking after each other.”
Plattsville...that’s got to be the name of your road, right?
“Yeah, I already felt a bit bad that I was moving away from the locals and more towards the wholesale. For six months, they’d supported me and helped me get bigger. They were where it all got started. I thought it would be nice to give a little nod to them as a thank you. A friend of mine designed the logo for me, she came up with a terraced house with wheat coming out the top and I absolutely love it.”
What’s next for the business then, world domination?
“I’m really cautious about growing too fast. This is still kind of new to me. We aren’t even a year old and I’ve only been baking in the unit for 6 months. I'm turning clients away at the moment, purely because we’re at capacity and I physically couldn’t do any more. It’s a good place to be...I just want to ride it out for a bit and make sure I’ve got my head around it before it gets any bigger.”
No prospects of going back to adventure guiding?
“No, not at all! This is me now. I’m so invested in this. It’s boss. I fucking love it!”
Bread from Plattsville Bakes is available weekly from loads of Liverpool independents including Skaus, Book Binder, East River, Vietnom, NOMADD and more.
Follow Andy on his socials to find out where you can grab your own @plattsvillebakes
Follow Rebecca Fry on Twitter