YOU would think a pandemic and a lockdown would put paid to most people’s business ambitions. But baker Chris Fahey is made of stern stuff.
“I was planning to open a bakery for some time,” says Chris, “now it’s happening.”
He is hoping to open his new business, Wildflour Bakery, in Main Street, Innishannon, in the coming weeks.
Chris, originally from Tipperary, has been living in Cork for 11 years. His wife, Michelle, is from Cork.
“Work was well underway on the premises,” says Chris of his business. “Then construction work had to be put on hold when we went into Level 5 due to the pandemic.”
However, the businessman, who studied building services and engineering, is undaunted.
“Once restrictions are lifted, we can go ahead with our planned opening, hopefully in late spring.”
Chris changed tack from building to baking when he felt unfulfilled.
“I had no interest in the building course I was doing and I left that after a year.”
Instead of being immersed in the business of building sites, his chosen venue was behind the cafe counter, serving aromatic cups of coffee in restaurants and bars, enjoying the brewing and bustle of the catering trade.
“I loved the social aspect of being a barista,” says Chris. “And I liked bar-work too, which I did for a while. I worked in The Bookshelf for four and a half years managing the cafe.”
He learned to bake yummy scones at the popular Cork coffee spot.
“And like a lot of people during lockdown, I watched Netflix and a documentary called Cooked gave me even more inspiration for baking.
“And I always had a love for Seagull Bakery in Tramore.”
Chris was inspired to get some yummy buns in the oven, stirring, sifting and rolling up a bunch of ingredients, creating something wonderful.
“I got valuable work experience at Ursa Minor 1, one of the best artisan bakeries in the country,” says Chris.
“And I learned how to master sourdough at Riot Rye.
“I came across a Jamie Oliver pastry recipe that I liked and I tweaked the recipe, developing it to make more varied pastries.”
Chris, bitten by the baking bug, was now becoming famous for his mouth-watering croissant-cinnamon bun hybrids, spiced with cardamom and orange zest.
“I supplied many of Cork’s favourite coffee shops with baked goodies, like Stonevalley Roasters in Clonakilty, Pink Moon on Washington Street, Café Moly on Douglas Street and Some Dose at Hanley’s Garden Centre.”
The news of Chris’s tasty produce wafted near and far.
“At first, I was baking from home for family and friends,” he says. “I experimented at home in the kitchen, baking buns and pastries for friends, asking them to try them out.”
His friends were well impressed!
“They all liked my baking and enjoyed the buns and pastries I made.”
Chris rose to the challenge.
“Baking was my thing! I decided to try and open my own place, operating out of a mobile unit.”
He took up a kind invitation from Johnny O’Mahoney, owner of Pompeii pizza. “He called me up and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you use my oven?’ says Chris. “Johnny said nobody would be there in the mornings.”
Chris, fuelled with ambition to get baking, got to work at the Franciscan Well premises where, in bygone days, the monks used the hallowed waters of the well underneath 14B, North Mall to brew all manner of boozy treats.
No doubt the intoxicating smell of sticky cinnamon buns and flaky twisty croissants would tempt the monks from dedicated toiling?
“The smell of fresh baking along the street is pretty amazing!” says Chris. “Before I knew it, I was in there baking Saturday mornings.”
People formed an orderly queue to get their weekend treats.
“People arrived to pick up their orders from the boot of my car on North Mall,” says Chris. “The response was fantastic.”
They wanted more.
“Positive feedback and encouragement from everyone pushed me to expand and I rented Pompeii’s mobile kitchen unit.”
He had the right ingredients to create the perfect mix.
“I knew a bit about baking,” say Chris. “And I felt I could do it better aiming for a premium product without cutting any corners.”
“I built up a customer-base over time and did a bit of networking over the years through working in Cork.
“Cork is a small place; everybody knows each other! Customers would buy a few of my buns to see how they sold, and soon they were coming back for more.”
He had another reason to branch out. “I could be my own boss!”
Demand for his delicious delicacies prompted the enthusiastic baker to look for a permanent location.
“I thought about the city for a good while,” says Chris. “But I was drawn towards the west.”
Chris found the perfect premises on Daft.ie and he was sold on opening Wildflour in Inishannon.
“I’m turning 30 this year, and I once read if you have your dream job by the time you’re 30, you’ll have 35 years to work at it! So what’s the rush!”
He has someone keeping tabs.
“Michelle is an accountant, which is a great help.”
Thinking positive during times when people are challenged in many ways is a help. “There is enough negativity in the world,” says Chris.
He’s putting his nose to the grindstone, getting ready to open up shop.
“In the meantime, I’ll keep the oven lit; keep slinging sourdough, keep rolling buns.”
He keeps doing what he loves doing best. “Keep on keeping on,” advises Chris. “Keep the head lads. It’ll all be grand.”
And some day soon we can taste the rolling cinnamon buns, the crispy croissants and the springy sourdough when we take a walk out West to Wildflour.