Philip Agnew, Bread baker, Jocelyn's Provisions
Good food, good company and time spent outside ...
Every morning as Philip Agnew pulls a batch of sourdough from the oven, he sets a loaf aside for himself, slices it while it’s still warm and savours a piece with butter. It may be a simple breakfast, but for Philip, bread is the thing that excites him most. He began his career as a graphic designer, but once he started dabbling in baking at home, his love for the craft steadily took over. For almost seven years, Philip would spend his Saturdays baking and poring through pages of recipe books, and then he started to visit local woodfire and commercial bakeries to learn how he could turn his hobby into a profession. Now as the bread baker for Jocelyn’s Provisions, Philip starts his day at 3:30 am and admits that many of his waking moments that follow are spent thinking about bread. His golden loaves of sourdough, baguettes and pane di casa are a new addition to the Fortitude Valley patisserie, and also star on the menu at Gerard’s Bistro. We timed our visit to Philip’s kitchen just in time to nab the last loaf of sourdough for the day, but before tucking in we sat down for a chat about weekends and the art of baking.
Describe yourself …
Always chasing balance …
What made you want to become a baker?
To me it is a real profession. A profession that, in its simplest form, has not really changed that much over hundreds of years. Bread is bread. Its components and methods can be altered but we are fundamentally making the same bread as we have been during the ages. I love working in a physical job where all my senses can play a role, and where at the end of a shift I have a real tangible ‘thing’ that is both nutritious and beautiful.
What drew you to Jocelyn’s Provisions?
Their professionalism and dedication to making quality products using quality ingredients. They don’t take shortcuts.
Describe a typical day for you …
My current schedule has me walking into the bakery at 3:20 am. The first thing I do each day is build up (feed) the sourdough starter before starting to bake the sourdough loaves that have been rising slowly overnight in a cool room. Over the next four hours, I continue to bake batches of sourdough and other breads that have been shaped and risen that morning. During this time I also start mixing for the following day’s bread. By 7:30 am, the retail baking is complete and heading to the shop. The middle of my day is filled with sourdough mixing, prepping ingredients, cleaning and baking any extra wholesale orders. I finish my day by shaping the sourdough loaves and placing them in the cool room for their overnight rise. I then feed the sourdough starter – the sourdough starter is the first and last thing I tend to each day.
What makes your bread so special?
Firstly, we use great ingredients. We are using organic flour from wheat that is grown and milled by Woods Organic Farm & Flour Mill in northern New South Wales. We have a direct relationship with the miller, who is also the farmer. They have recently finished their harvest and we are very excited about using this flour in our breads in the coming months. Secondly, all our breads use long fermentation. The sourdoughs, pane di casa and baguettes are all gently fermented for 24 hours. This yields bread that not only tastes great and lasts well, but is also easier for the body to digest. Another small note worth mentioning is the use of freshly milled flour. I use a small stone mill for producing fresh flour that I use in the sourdough starter and final mixes for flavour and nutrition.
What is your favourite bread to bake?
A simple, naturally fermented sourdough – flour, water and salt – so simple, yet so beautifully complex.
What influences and inspires your work?
Bakers such as Dave Miller in Chico, California. He runs a one-man bakehouse where he mills his own flour and bakes for a large farmers market and his local community. He is smart, efficient, fast and knows how to run a successful business while still caring deeply about the nutrition of the products he is selling.
If we rummaged through your grocery bag what would we find?
Almond spread, cultured butter, Greek yoghurt and rooibos tea.
What is your most beloved Brisbane suburb?
I have recently moved to Wellington Point in the Redlands and have fallen head-over-heels in love with it. We are just down the road from the ever-amazing Wellington Point Farm and have been soaking up the sea breezes from Moreton Bay.
How do you like to start your weekend?
An early morning walk through Wellington Point to find a coffee.
How do you like to unwind?
Watching clouds or flying kites. Doing both at the same time is best.
What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Good food, good company and time spent outside.
What’s something you’ve been meaning to do on the weekend but haven’t got around to yet?
Drive to Bribie Island to visit a friend and bake pizzas with him in his woodfired oven.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday evening?
Watch a movie after a gentle dinner with good wine.
What inspires you?
At the moment, it’s Instagram. I can be inspired by bakers and other creatives from all across the globe who are making incredible ‘things’. It pushes me.
What was your childhood dream?
Being a fighter pilot. I was obsessed with all manner of military aircraft.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Turning my daydreams into reality.
What are your words of wisdom?
‘Don’t believe the hype’ – this comes from the fantastic baker Brett Noy. It has always stuck with me.
Only a local would know that … everybody in Wellington Point smiles and says hello on morning walks.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Refuelled Cafe, Wellington Point.
Relax … On a blanket by the river at West End.
Dine … Vine Restaurant, New Farm.
Indulge … Anywhere in Bangalow.
Shop … Small farmers markets.
Catch-up … Gerard’s Bistro for breakfast.
Be inspired … GOMA.