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Rosa on the rise

Estera-Rosa Cundill is the teenage head baker of her family’s high street bakery in the Welsh town of Neath.

Rosa in her family bakery. Copyright: Business in Focus

Rosa in her family bakery. Copyright: Business in Focus

Hi, I’m Rosa. I recently turned 18 and can hardly believe that, with my family’s help and love, I’ve started my own bakery!

I’d baked with my mum, dad and grandma since I was a toddler. My first ever recipe was chocolate and pecan cookies, which we now sell. It makes me chuckle to myself when I hear customers complimenting me on them, as I remember how my first batch melted together and turned into one, huge, tray-shaped cookie! I started dreaming about being a pastry chef at around the age of 12. When choosing my GCSEs I remember researching what qualifications I would need to become one. At this point, I had no clue how to bake bread, though.

Learning journey

When my mum encouraged me to take the leap of finishing my formal education early at 16, my dad gave me a Bertinet Kitchen bread-making course for Christmas. I’m really pleased to say that, to this day, I get to use the same sourdough culture that chef, baker and past Real Bread Campaign ambassador Richard Bertinet started 22 years ago. I also completed the first year of professional bakery at Neath College, where I got to learn the basics of hygiene, health and safety, and record-keeping. 

Then a great opportunity arose for me to volunteer with my dad at an artisan bakery in my mum’s homeland of România. This open-plan bakery is run by a lovely family and we were really inspired. If you ever find yourself in Sibiu, you have to visit Mariohr Bakery. Another great blessing along my journey was being chosen for coaching by a great Christian business consultant, who wanted to volunteer his services to three young entrepreneurs. He also helped my dad and me put together a business plan and to dream big. I’m forever grateful to Dave Thompson for his great input.

From home to high street

We didn’t see opening a microbakery from home as a viable option since we have cats. Instead, we set our hearts on using a vacant retail space in our small village, which has a population of just 1,000 people. After waiting for over a year on the promise of three-phase electrics and a flexible lease agreement, the door closed and we were forced to look elsewhere. We found an ideal high street unit available in the nearest town, ten minutes’ drive away. Talk about needing to dream big: the population of Neath is around 50,000! We had to think bigger equipment: a three-deck oven instead of two, a 60kg spiral mixer instead of 35kg, additional refrigeration...

The Real Bread Campaign’s Knead to Know…more microbakery handbook proved invaluable, while Little Valley Bakery in Swansea kindly gave us some sound kitchen layout advice. The project was funded by a monetary gift from my grandparents, a sizeable grant from our local authority, plus some loans. After four months of fitting out and lots of long days (especially for dad), we made it! On 15 March 2023, we opened the doors of Rosa’s Bakery and Café.

A family affair

My typical day consists of waking up at 5:30am and getting ready to start alongside my dad at the bakery by 6:30am. The first thing we do when we get there is start with a prayer for that day, then put on praise and worship music. I then egg-wash the pastries and put them in our Mono Harmony three-deck oven, while dad loads in all the sourdough and sandwich loaves. We have timers going off here, there and everywhere! Customers have told us that they can smell the bread from the end of the street.

Reuben, my 16-year-old brother, cycles to the bakery by 8:30am to help me with the most exciting part: displaying all the products ready for sale. After oven shift, I prepare the doughs and pastries for the next day with help here and there from dad and my two brothers. Mum drops our younger sister at primary school, then arrives just in time for the 10am opening.

At lunch time we begin to shape the breads and pastries. After our final prep is done, we put all of our products into the fridge to rest, while we go home to enjoy some well-earned rest ourselves. Of course, we take with us a fresh loaf from that day to enjoy with our evening meal - that’s if we haven’t forgotten to set one aside for ourselves before they all sell out!

We decided to open between 10am and 4pm from Tuesday to Friday. This way we get to spend evenings and weekends together, doing things we each enjoy - mountain biking, nature walks, sewing, embroidering, paddleboarding and meeting up with family and friends. 

Magic ingredients

I’ve often been asked what makes our bread and pastries so tasty. I think it’s a combination of a few things. We don’t skimp on anything. We use fresh, organic ingredients. Our water is filtered three times, we use Cornish sea salt and even the oil I use for folding the sourdough is raw, organic olive oil. My family’s passion for explaining to our customers the ingredients, processes and love that go into each product is second to none! Throughout the day, as I’m happily baking along, I hear my mum or dad proudly telling customers: “All organic ingredients, no additives, Real Bread, great for your gut.” It makes me smile. 

I love the fact that we went for an open-plan kitchen, from where I get to see and interact with the customers, as well as see my family serving with great joy. My mum is great at offering samples of bread with Romanian fruit preserves or vegetable spreads, while my brothers make great baristas. Dad is funny; he’s like a kid in a sweet shop as he excitedly talks about the bread, and our customers love him. He worked tirelessly on one recipe in particular and impressed us with the fluffiest, tastiest white sandwich bread. We now sell it every day and dedicated it to him: Daddy’s Loaf.

I love to dream up new ideas and am excited that the bakery is a place I can experiment and make them a reality. In the future, I’d like to create new, beautiful patisserie products. I hope this article will inspire other young people and encourage their parents to support their children in reaching their dreams.

Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 57, January 2024.

Rosa is amongst the Real Bread Campaign lineup in The Theatre of Food at Latitude Festival 2024.

See also


Published Tuesday 23 April 2024

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