British Army bomb disposal expert turns artisan baker

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: British army, Baker

Jim Bishop: from bomb disposal to artisan baker
Jim Bishop: from bomb disposal to artisan baker
After 27 years of service, a former bomb disposal expert has left the British Army to launch his own artisan bakery.

With his wife, Rebecca, Jim Bishop plans to open The Two Magpies artisan bakery on the High Street of Southwold, Suffolk in February 2013.

He told “I was a soldier for 27 years and, towards the end of my career, I became very passionate about food and started making my own bread. Then I read an article about the School of Artisan Food in the Guardian and had a eureka moment.”

So Bishop left the army and spent a year studying artisan baking. During his training he was particularly inspired by a two-week placement at a bakery in Gothenberg, Sweden.

He said: “It’s hard to put into words how much of a revelation it was for me work at that bakery. Their bread was the best I’ve ever tasted and transformed the way I thought about baking. Northern Europe has such a strong baking heritage and culture that it’s almost a birthright.”

Swedish style

Gothenberg was the centre of Indian spice imports to Sweden, so spices are frequent ingredients and bread is often baked from grains such as rye, barley and oats. The Two Magpies bakery will certainly have a hint of Scandinavia to it.

“I love baking bread with cardamon but I’m not sure Southwold is ready for a Gothenberg-style display of Swedish knäckaebrod on poles in the window!” ​he said.

The School of Artisan Baking sources brewers’ yeast from its own microbrewery so Bishop learnt to make traditional long-fermentation British beer balm bread.

“Going back hundreds of years, the baker and the brewer used to be in the same part of town so that they could work together to make their long-fermented products,” ​he said.

Bishop aspires to collaborate with Adnams brewery in Southwold to make traditional British beer balm bread.

Jobs for locals

And this is just the start of the couple’s plans to engage with the community. Next month they will begin their search for two permanent staff to work in retail at the front of the bakery, plus casual staff to cover peak periods.

“If the call for our product is huge, then we will take on more people. We’d love to take on an apprentice and pass on our skills.”

As members of the Real Bread Campaign, they will spread their passion by running artisan baking workshops.

“Most of the younger generations have never tasted real bread,” ​he said. “Rebecca is an ex-schoolteacher so she will be teaching them. Hopefully, they will bring the message home to their parents.”

Meanwhile, Bishop hopes to work with some of his ex-colleagues. He has offered his services to the Veterans Artisan Bakery, which provides therapeutic and vocational training to homeless war veterans.

“Working with your hands is really therapeutic,” ​he said. “It would be great to have a couple of their guys working with me on placements. If anyone knows how to make the transition from military to civilian life, it’s me.”


From bomb disposal to bakery

1984 – joins the Royal Engineers as a junior soldier.

2007 – commissioned as an officer.

2010 – promoted to acting major at the Defence Explosive Munitions and Search School.

2010 – Gives a year’s notice and resigns from Army, leaving in September 2011 after 27 years.

Aug 2011 – marries Rebecca.

2011 – 12 – Spends a year travelling the UK with wife, Rebecca, researching bakery properties and locations.

Jul 2012 – Completes one-year course in artisan baking at the School of Artisan Food.

October 2012 – secures lease on 88 High Street, Southwold.

February 2013 – The planned opening for Two Magpies Bakery.

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