In 1945, at age 14.5 years Robert ‘Bob’ Gardner started working in the local bakery in Warragul, VIC when the owner needed help because all the bakers had gone off to fight in WWII. In that late 1940’s to the early 1950’s Bob travelled, via pushbike and train, working as a relief baker around south Australia, New South Whales and Victoria to build his experience as a craftsman.
In 1952 he started his first bakery in Cockatoo in the Dandenong Ranges. It was a small bakery, he started on his own from scratch, retailing to the township and wholesaling into Gembrook, Emerald and surrounding towns. Over the next 25 years Bob built his experience, ran several successful small businesses in regional Victoria and eventually settled in Dandenong. This is where he started the local bakery in Doveton which has been running continuously since 1976 (though the family sold the business in 1988). This was the business where The Healthy Loaf 100% Gluten Free’s, Master Artisan Baker, Graham Gardner, began his official apprenticeship to become a Baker back in 1976.
Graham remembers his Dad being passionate about quality, a trait they share Graham says that “bringing out an excellent product depends on how much you care about getting your processes right” and they both knew that when it comes to excellent bread, near enough is never good enough. Having said this, he hilariously recalls his Dad’s lack of customer service but thankfully his Mum ran the shop and built fond relationships with their regular customers, just as you would imagine a small-town business owner would do.
Trail blazing and innovation within not only their baking but the industry at the time was a corner stone of their multigenerational success. Just a few examples of this include:
- Taking animal fats out of their breads in the later 1970’s and replaced them in vegetable oils. The logic of using an oil, which wouldn’t set, meant they could keep the bread fresher for longer—thanks to the Gardner’s, this is the norm in modern bread making today.
- Even in those early days Graham just wanted to make bread healthier, so they adapted their recipes to remove sugar, reduce salt and created a ‘softie loaf’ which used more soya flour, to create a really soft loaf but avoided adding any chemical mould inhibitors—which is what the ‘big fellas’ used from the 1960’s—to achieve the same result (that stuff is nasty!).
- They also made creative changes to their baking techniques, including a new step they coined as ‘Cross graining’, which reduced holes in the final product, made the bread easier to slice and kept it fresher for longer.
The Healthy Loaf 100% Gluten Free is proud to have a connection to baking in Victoria that goes back more than sixty-five years. Graham’s own forty years of experience mean he has very conservatively spent around 165,600 hours learning the idiosyncrasies of flours, doughs, baking and business.