She travels the world, baking bread in a trailer, then returns to her modernist north London pad to brainstorm creative ideas for her business. Read about the romantic life of Julia Georgallis, founder of The Bread Companion…
Julia Georgallis, 28, set up The Bread Companion during her design MA at the Royal College of Art. She later decided to focus on perfecting her bread-making – travelling the world with her bread oven trailer, and teaching others how to bake and eat better food. But she uses her art and design background for the visual aspects of her brand. She runs workshops and supper clubs in the UK, while working in an east London bakery.
Where do you live?
Hmm. This is a complicated answer. For the last three years I’ve been living between my mum’s house in Southgate (where I grew up) and my dad’s flat in Highgate (my dad lives in Cyprus for most of the month, so it’s usually just me there). I suppose a better question to ask is ‘where’s all my stuff’ and the answer to that is that most of it is in my dad’s garage and the rest in a couple of rooms in his flat. When I’m at my dad’s, I also have a continuous stream of stray friends coming to visit me.
What’s your home like?
My mum’s house is cosy, 1930s and square with the Piccadilly line rattling past the end of the garden every two minutes – a suburban nest, I guess. I recently redecorated my dad’s flat – it’s in Grade 1 listed modernist building Highpoint and it’s a treat living there. As most of the people who live in my dad’s flat are transient (my sister visits from Manchester from time to time and my brother and my dad come and go from Cyprus) I decided to redecorate with the brief of ‘modernist hotel.’ I wanted it to be comfortable but slick, I suppose like a posh hotel. It’s all quite monochrome and swanky for my own personal taste but I did make a point of not allowing it to be too sterile – it’s still a home away from home for them and a home most of the time for me.
I like sleeping with the blinds open so I go to sleep with the streetlights and wake up with the sun.
What time are you up in the morning?
I don’t have a routine at the moment as I have three different jobs. I work as a baker for Better Health Bakery in Haggerston three days a week and teach at Kingston University one day a week – the rest of the time, I work on my own brand, The Bread Companion. If I’m working a bakery shift, I’ll either wake up at 7am for the day shift or 12am for the night shift. If I teach I’m up at quarter to 7, I’m usually up at about 8am for my own work.
What wakes you up?
If I’m working for myself, I NEVER set an alarm. I try and be more flexible with my own time so I get a chance to catch up on sleep and so I make a point of waking up naturally. I like sleeping with the blinds open so I go to sleep with the streetlights and wake up with the sun.
How do you feel?
It swings between deliriously tired to feeling excited to be awake.
What do you do first thing?
Switch Radio 4 on, boil the kettle and jump in the shower.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Slowmotion then Fastforward.
Tea or coffee?
What’s for breakfast?
I have lost my breakfast routine as my life has become more varied, so breakfast is different every day. Porridge is my favourite, but I do love a good egg on toast. I occasionally try and juice green things and sometimes I might eat a salad. This morning I ate half a cucumber because I thought it might help with my hangover (it did, FYI). Tea is always involved.
At 1pm, my energy and concentration levels dip so I eat and go to meetings, run errands or do some kind of physical work like creating recipes for my blog or baking for events
How might the rest of your day pan out?
The main challenge of my day is to trick my brain into focussing. I have a real problem with concentration and have found that the best way to deal with this is to work on a couple of different things per day. I don’t have a particularly strict routine but I try and maintain three different working paces throughout the day – the first is from about 8 am to 1pm, when I work the hardest as my brain is the most switched on, so I need to take advantage of that.
At 1pm, my energy and concentration levels dip so I eat and go to meetings, run errands or do some kind of physical work like creating recipes for my blog or baking for events. The third part of the working day is at some point in the evening when my brain has switched itself on again (it’s a bit like the central heating). I usually reply to emails, do some admin and plan for two or three hours.
What’s your workspace like?
For The Bread Companion’s HQ, I have commandeered my dad’s office in his flat. It is full of books, piles, lists and folders, plus bits of old design work from my previous life as an industrial designer. However, even though I have successfully taken this room for my own I have also, rather infuriatingly for everyone else, taken up a position on the end of my dining table which has excellent sunlight and is also within two steps of the kettle and digestive biscuit stash.
Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
The Bread Companion is a moving, micro bakery that encourages people to eat, bake and buy real bread and provide for themselves. Inspired by communal bread ovens of the past, I drive around a trailer complete with a sink and wood fired and run a range of bread-making classes. The point of the project however is not just about bread – my aim is to get people thinking about everything they eat, and bread is the perfect gateway to that.
Most people don’t have the time or space to grow veg or the knowhow to farm their own animals, but knocking up a homemade loaf is doable and empowering. Plus it gives people a chance to use their hands – making is really important for our brains and a lot of us just don’t do anything practical anymore. I also run various supper clubs throughout the year and write a blog, The Bap, where I post various recipes, thoughts and stories from my travels, which helps contextualise the project.
I am fortunate to have been to a great many places. From hanging out in Italy for eight months, to trekking in the Himalayas, to solo backpacking around Latin America for five months…
I was an industrial designer before I was a baker. The Bread Companion came about after I was set a project brief in my final year at the Royal College of Art in 2013 to ‘become an expert’ about something – we had three weeks to learn a new skill. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between food and design so I was immediately drawn to bread. At that point in my studies I was having a really hard time as I realised that I just didn’t want to work in the art and design industry anymore, and so mastering baking was something that gave me confidence. After that project, I started volunteering in a bakery on Saturdays, researching bread and baking in my spare time and the whole thing turned into my graduation project, then my actual work in January 2015.
You’re a keen traveller; how do you combine your baking work with travel?
Travel has ended up being at the heart of The Bread Companion’s story, I suppose, but it’s kind of an accident that I have managed to combine the two – that wasn’t what motivated me to start the project, but founding a mobile, micro bakery has meant that I’ve HAD to travel. I’ve always seen the value in travelling and I am fortunate to have been to a great many places. From hanging out in Italy for eight months, to trekking in the Himalayas, to solo backpacking around Latin America for five months… But we live in a world where all fun things must always be justified. So I justify all my voyages under the guise of ‘research,’ which ends up on The Bread Companion’s blog.
But, I have to say, that I don’t actively search for food and new recipes when I travel. I tried to do this at the beginning of my Latin America trip – I painfully researched bakeries in Buenos Aires, Argentina and spent the first three days traipsing around looking for them. They were all massive disappointments. So I gave up and had a bloody good time instead for the rest of my trip. That decision led me to return with hundreds of recipes because going in search of good food seemed to come hand in hand with going in search of a good time. All this new information makes the brand a bit richer, a bit more exciting – it helps to engage people when trying to teach them new skills.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
My greatest challenge is keeping my confidence up. I dread the question ‘what do you do for a living’ because I never know what to say – I have a weird life and a weird routine and a weird job and people don’t really understand what I do. So I get lots of blank stares or comments that can be quite patronising or insinuate that I don’t really work. Which is annoying, because I work very, very hard.
What makes it all worthwhile?
Sunday is my favourite day, so I think there should be two of them per week
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
I generally do everything, because I like the variety that my work entails, but as I’m getting busier I have been experimenting with asking volunteers (and my mum) to help me run things. At first this was daunting to hand over responsibility to others, but it’s been a real weight off my shoulders and means that I can concentrate more on the finer details of my business.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
Working on my own is best because I get very distracted by others.
What’s the secret to career success?
I’ve been watching successful people for a while and have built some theories based around my observations. The main observation is that people who are successful do the opposite things to me. For example, people who are successful seem to choose one thing and stick to it and do it really well. People who are successful seem to have regular routines. People who are successful don’t spend a year building a business and then go backpacking for seven months. People who are successful seem to eat the same thing for breakfast every day.
However, I’m still not going to do any of those things.
Do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/travel/career?
Yes. It is really hard, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I think the trick is to not plan too far in advance. I make sure there are two nights of the week that are appointment free. If you try and plan things, including social stuff and dating, you end up booked up for the next three months and life becomes like one long appointment with no time to do nothing or spontaneously call your mates for a drink or pop over to your grandparents’ house unannounced. I also make sure I take a day off every four or five days.
Describe an ideal weekend?
There are four days in my ideal weekend – Friday, Saturday and two Sundays. Sunday is my favourite day, so I think there should be two of them per week.
My Friday would be work free. The UK would be much more efficient if no one worked in an office on Friday. I would use Friday and Saturday primarily for lols. The first Sunday would begin by cooking a huge breakfast for the people who have invariably amassed in my house after Saturday’s night out. This would be followed by a pub or two, then a delicious and totally un-nutritious takeaway. After which point, Sunday night may turn into a night out. Sunday number two would entail a huge family dinner at my mum’s, which usually last for hours, followed by a cup of tea and a mild food coma.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
If we’re talking geographically then I would probably say somewhere in Brazil, during Carnival. (It’s my favourite country in the whole wide world). But I do like the place that I’m at right now.
Event: Yeast in the East
Description: Yeast in the East is a crash course in sourdough bread-making. In this jam packed, 3.5 hour long workshop, you will learn the basics of all things yeasty. Light dinner included, BYOB, £35 per head.
Dates: Wednesday January 25th and Wednesday February 8th
Location: Host of Leyton, London E10
Event: How to eat your Christmas tree…
Description: Back for a second year after a successful run in 2015, designers and friends Julia Georgallis of The Bread Companion and Lauren Davies of HEKA join forces once more to host an evergreen-themed, festive dinner party. How to eat your Christmas tree explores the edible coniferous heroes of the forest. During a 4 course meal, conifers are showcased in a multitude of exciting and unusual ways. Diners will leave feeling inspired to extend the life of their Christmas tree, perhaps by nibbling on it, after this dining experience!
Tickets: £35. 10 places per sitting, BYOB.
Dates: Sunday 8th January, Monday 9th January
Location: Secret location in north London!