| Sophie Williams

Listen to Your Gut – Modern Baker, A New Way to Bake

“There is an ever-growing awareness that much of the food we are encouraged, tempted and even advised to consume is responsible for a whole host of modern illness and that is at the heart of why Modern Baker exists. We want to provide you with an alternative that we believe is healthy, nutritious but, above all, delicious”- Modern Baker.

In a society where health and wellbeing are coming to the forefront of day-to-day living, we are looking for healthier alternatives to boost the nutritional quality of what we’re putting into our bodies. The Modern Baker is a pioneering baked good brand, working out of Oxford to bring us nutritional cakes, biscuits and bread made with natural ingredients and sourdough starters.


The Story Behind The Brand:

In January 2010, aged 36, co-founder Melissa Sharp found a lump in her right breast. The consultant told her it was benign, but gave the option to have it removed. Melissa followed her gut instinct and had the small procedure to remove the lump. This was the beginning of a life-changing journey, as the lump turned out to be home to an aggressive, triple-negative, grade 3 cancer.

Preparing her body for battle, Melissa and her partner, Leo (who had also experienced his own bout of trauma and illness), adopted alternative, healthy ways of living.  To improve her immune system and body’s ability to cope with the toxins she was about to be hit with. “On the chemo ward the tea trolley was always laden with fizzy drinks, sweets and biscuits”, explains Melissa. “I was just learning about the connections between sugar and cancer, and was shocked to see these things here of all places”. Cancer forced Melissa to confront the connection between stress, nutrition and chronic ill health. So, after treatment ended, she reevaluated her post-chemo routine, knowing that her diet had to change – “I kept my diet green, clean and in control”.

Melissa and Leo informed themselves. Experimented. Melissa treatment went well. Drugs played their part, but without many of the supposedly inevitable side-effects. They knew they were on to something. Determined to make this her business, Melissa and Leo spent the next three years visiting organic bakeries, Avante-Garde delis and restaurants, all over the world- Scandinavia, Paris, New York, London – all in the name of research.

Finally, they arrived at the concept of a cafe-bakery. This lead to the recruitment of  Lindsay Stark, a graduate from the highly esteemed School of Artisan Food in Nottingham. In 2014, they opened a shop/café in Oxford – it was an instant hit. People instinctively responded to what the team were doing and were irresistibly drawn to what came out of the ovens. Baking only long-fermented sourdough bread (using a standard 48-hour fermentation process, no added or commercial yeasts) using organic pre-industrial, stone-ground grains of wheat, rye and many more. Then the bakery set about creating ‘healthier’ sweet treats.  All cakes, biscuits and pastries would be made only with unrefined sugars – And so the proposition of healthy baking became reality.

A Healthy Workspace For A Healthy Brand

Unit 7 by James Wyman Architects. Station Field Industrial Estate, Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

Expanding from its grassroots in Oxford the need for a larger production facility lead to architecture collaboration with James Wyman; who built the MB facility with wellness architecture in mind. “We Transformed the workspace from a unit in a humble industrial estate into something that reflects the mission and integrity of Modern Baker”, explains James. “By opening up the space from front to back, maximising natural light and keeping decor simplistic with touches of Scandinavian modernism, a positive work environment was born”. The flow of the space from the glass front to the view of the working kitchen to the rear reflects the honesty of the brand with clear visuals from start to finish. “It’s really important to us, that every aspect of business embodies our healthy message”, tells co-founder Leo Campbell. Other local artisans and landlords within the industrial development have shown interest in recreating their spaces with health and well-being design in mind – dubbing the area as ‘Quinoa Alley’ in the making.

Where to Next?

Going from strength to strength, Modern Baker describes itself as a purpose-driven business with the belief that change is necessary. “The Government published a figure in 2014, showing that 9% of the NHS budget was being spent on diet-related chronic illness. People believe that the real impact of this issue could be double maybe even triple that figure –  this is a serious societal issue”, explains Leo. So the team embarked on five scientific research projects with the help of partial government funding. The project most recently announced, is the funding award they received from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to lead a 2-year project around the nutritional quality of bread. For this project they have partnered with Newcastle University’s Cell and Molecular Biosciences research department, investigating the human gut system, measuring the impact of food (particularly bread) during digestion. This data will highlight societies need for simplified carbohydrates.

Supplying stockists across London, including Planet Organic and Selfridges, Modern Baker enjoys the growing demand for all things sourdough. In response, MB is preparing to commission a production facility capable of producing up to 20,000 units per week. This will give the brand the opportunity to make a significant impact with its healthy alternatives. The next step for Modern Baker will see it’s sourdough starters and healthy baking mission go international with U.S book launch of  Super Loaves & Simple Treats on March 20th, 2018.

Modern Baker: A New Way To Bake‘ by Melissa Sharp with Lindsay Stark is out now (Ebury Press, RRP £26) and Modern Baker’s range of healthy baked goods are available in Selfridges (London, Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange), Planet Organic and their Oxford-based cafe-bakery at 214 Banbury Road, OX2 7BY.

For more of Modern Baker’s delicious and wholesome recipes, like Melissa’s Life-Changing Olive Oil Carrot Cake, go to our Food & Drink section.

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