This is a transcript of an unpeeled podcast interview with Louise Ritchie of Silver Creek Sourdough in Beechworth. You can also listen here.
Peter Kenyon: Hey everyone. There’s something about bread that’s absolutely fundamental. For many of us a really good loaf of crusty sourdough bread, unadorned except perhaps for a lashing of butter, is something that can’t be beaten.
There’s only one Beechworth Bakery, but there’s more than one bakery in Beechworth and today I have a quick chat with a North East artisan baker who happens to be located right here in Beechworth.
Louise Ritchie: My name’s Louise Richie and I make sourdough. I’ve made a bakery and now I feed people.
Peter Kenyon: What sort of sourdough: bread, other things?
Louise Ritchie: Sourdough bread, sourdough crumpets and pizza bases.
Peter Kenyon: A nice line to get into.
Louise Ritchie: Simple.
Peter Kenyon: What was the gap that you were identifying when you started it and how long ago did you begin?
Louise Ritchie: So the business started in 2014 but I’d been making sourdough for about three years beforehand just as a hobby for myself and interest for myself. I’d also made bread, as a poor student through uni and that sort of stuff, but it slowly just progressed through to sourdough.
The reason why I went for sourdough was because my kids were deemed gluten intolerant and the more I researched into sourdough, the more I discovered that not all sourdough is proper sourdough and real sourdough. And if you’re doing it for a gluten intolerance, you need to ensure that it’s done correctly.
Peter Kenyon: So how are the kids?
Louise Ritchie: Kids are fine. There’s no eczema anymore.
Peter Kenyon: So they don’t have any issues.
Louise Ritchie: No. No.
Peter Kenyon: So it’s not necessarily gluten.
Louise Ritchie: Uh, may not be. might not have been, but it helped the excema at the time and it led me to something that I absolutely love doing.
Peter Kenyon: And this is your bakery and it’s pretty big, a big commercial bakery.
Louise Ritchie: It is big these days. Yes. So last year we quadrupled the size of our bakery.
Peter Kenyon: So business is good.
Louise Ritchie: Business was very squeezed into one little 12 metre … Well, what was it? Four metres by eight metre room and four of us working in there and it just became very, very tight. So we expanded.
Peter Kenyon: And have you expanded sales as well?
Louise Ritchie: No, there’s just a steady increase of growth every year.
Peter Kenyon: So it’s reliable.
Louise Ritchie: Absolutely reliable and just nice and slow and steady and consistent.
Peter Kenyon: How far do you distribute your bread and your crumpets and your pizza bases?
Louise Ritchie: Crumpets go far and wide because they can be refrigerated and they’ve got three weeks fridge life on them. So our crumpets, we’ve got a distributor in Sydney, so we have 40 shops up in Sydney that we stock. We’ve just started moving into Melbourne and we’ve only got four – we’ve got five shops now down in Melbourne, and then the crumpets go right across the whole North East Victoria and bread stays a lot closer because it’s a day-to-day product and we rely on couriers.
We’ve got bread as far down as Mansfield, Benalla, Wangaratta, Albury and Beechworth.
Peter Kenyon: What’s the future for Silver Creek Sourdough?
Louise Ritchie: Slow and consistent, to remain in business, to remain doing what we do and not to ever get so big that we can’t manage it.
Peter Kenyon: Are there any particular challenges that you would like help with, or that you recognize as an issue that you hope can be resolved in some way?
Louise Ritchie: I think staffing is probably our biggest. Not so much an issue, but there’s certainly a shortage of bakers. I currently have two apprentices that I’m training up now. So even if we’ve had qualified bakers in here, they still have never done what we do. We use flour, water and salt, and that’s it.
Most bakeries use a pre-packaged mix with a bunch of different bread improvers and yeast, and all sorts of other weird and wonderfuls that go in there. And so all the majority of bakers know is to just add water.
Peter Kenyon: So your bread expresses a personality that’s different year round.
Louise Ritchie: Our bread, it changes every single day.
Peter Kenyon: But there’s a level and a consistency that people obviously love because they keep coming back.
Louise Ritchie: Yes, we try and give a consistent product, but it’s a live product and sourdough has a mind of its own. The culture is going on, it must be 14 years old. So it was just flour, water, mixed up.
Peter Kenyon: And it’s the local culture.
Louise Ritchie: Well it’s mine.
Peter Kenyon: So you made it here in Beechworth.
Louise Ritchie: Flour and water on my window sill and grew it from there.
Peter Kenyon: Fantastic.
Louise Ritchie: And it still remains to be that.
Peter Kenyon: Amazing. Alright. Well, thanks Lou.
Louise Ritchie: No worries.
Peter Kenyon: We’ll do it again sometime.
Louise Ritchie: Excellent. Thank you..
Peter Kenyon: Bye.