Behind Every Great Baker…

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					                 The Australian Baking Industry
                  National Scholarship Awards

                         Arthur E Denison Trophy 2006

                                  Topic 3

                  BEHIND EVERY GREAT BAKER……???

Our Australian Baking Industry has been…and is…blessed with many,
wonderful     people!     Great    bakers…skilled     craftsmen…industry
“visionaries…delightful characters…so just what is the IT that makes a
“great baker”? Is it just genius, or is there more to it?...perhaps it’s a
mentor?...a      great     spouse?...better      education?...the     latest
equipment?...expensive       ingredients?...great    staff…a      marketing
plan?...the best pie?...industry service?...etc.

Indeed, is there a common thread at all? Or is their success just plain

                             Number of pages: 10.

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                 1
                       Behind Every Great Baker…?

I believe that behind every „Great Baker‟ there exists a passion from which is
born a life full of creativity, vision, enthusiasm, and hope. This involves
rewards, hardships, perseverance, and spark, and in many cases a mentor
whether it is a family member, teacher or a peer in the business.

There are, and have been, many great bakers within the Australian Baking
Industry: Sydney Packham, Lindsey Tanner, Robert Davies, Hedley Harris,
Kevin Hicks and Tom O‟Toole, to name but a few. They have inspired,
innovated, and ultimately left a rich legacy that continues to be remembered

From the above-named Baking Greats I have chosen to focus on three - to
demonstrate how their characteristics, skills and talents have led them to
achieve, and deserve, the title of “GREAT BAKERS.”

Tom O‟Toole certainly earned this title. He was born in 1952 in Tocumwal,
NSW and is a self confessed kindergarten dropout who left school at the age
of 14 without completing Year 9.

At 16 Tom became a baker‟s apprentice employed by Hammer‟s Bakery in
Tocumwal. During his apprenticeship, Hammer‟s Bakery was sold to Baker
Boy and later to Home Pride. Tom was able to continue his apprenticeship but
had to relocate to Shepparton, and later to Beechworth, where he was
promoted to Production Manager at just 17 years of age. He chose to leave
Beechworth after 11 months to avoid attending bakery school.

     “All up I changed my apprenticeship papers 3 times in order to
     dodge bakery school.” (1)
     Source: Tom O‟Toole, Breadwinner, p 72

At this time, even though Tom‟s talent and leadership skills were developing,
he still had little formal education behind him.

Tom next accepted a job with Wise Brothers, a company which had bakeries
in many towns including Albury. It was at this time that Tom met Frank
Sinnett, his boss, who became his mentor.

     “Frank looked after me; he knew I was keen to get ahead. I
     always felt he was „watching out‟ for me, and I promised myself
     that someday I‟d get a desk just like his.” (2)
     Source: Tom O‟Toole, Breadwinner, p 75

With the assistance of Frank and his family Tom gained his Bakery Ticket
through a correspondence course and completed his apprenticeship on April
30th, 1972.

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At the age of 21, whilst successfully managing a bakery in Arhnemland, Tom
purchased a bakery with Frank‟s assistance. Frank even sold Tom that old
desk he‟d so admired.

This bakery, located in Yarrawonga, Victoria, was not a huge success owing
in part to a contract with Sunicrust, a large wholesale company, which
prevented the selling of sliced bread. Tom also bought the Ideal Café in
Beechworth in partnership with his sister and brother-in-law and changed the
name to „The Beechworth Bakery & Milk Bar‟. In contrast to Yarrawonga the
Beechworth business was quite successful. Tom juggled running both
bakeries until finding a buyer for Yarrawonga. After three and a half years
Tom sold the Beechworth business and, with his first wife Carol, moved to
W.A. where they opened a bakery in Augusta.

Tom and Carol were workaholics and Tom began drinking more than normal
to help wind down at the end of the day. He went from wanting a drink to
needing a drink.

They sold the Augusta Bakery for double what they‟d originally paid and Tom
promised Carol that that would be the last bakery he‟d own…unfortunately for
Carol, a visit to see his sister found Tom purchasing the Beechworth Bakery,
for the second time! Carol walked out on him, leaving him alone to raise their
two girls and run the business.

His drinking became serious; he was depressed, and at one point even
contemplated suicide. To solve his problem Tom received counselling run by

       “I did a lot of self analysis because I realised I didn‟t really know
       who Tom O‟Toole was. I had to do a lot of thinking and I even had
       to ask myself: „Do I want to be justa‟ baker?‟ One day I made the
       commitment. I looked around and thought: I‟m gonna be a
       BAKER‟…I decided to be a baker. Boots „n all.” (3)
       Source: Tom O‟Toole, Breadwinner, p 155

Tom began focussing on the Beechworth Bakery at 100 mph; with renewed
enthusiasm as a result of the stability he gained through his second marriage.

Tom developed innovative marketing and fun promotional ideas, which
included in-store special events, such as: Pyjama Day, St Patrick‟s Day, Kid‟s
Day, Donut Day, The Pie Eating Competition, a Jazz band on the balcony
every Sunday as well as pipes from the bakehouse to the veranda and fans to
pump hot bread smells up and down the street to titillate potential customers‟
taste buds.
Source: Good enough never is, p 19 (4)

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                     3
This unique focus on marketing and customer service has seen Beechworth
Bakery awarded „Most Significant Regional Attraction‟ in The Victorian
Tourism Awards, not once but three times, as well as eight other prestigious
bakery awards.

Attention must be given to the fact that, in a small rural town with a population
of just over three thousand, this brilliant bakery is credited with having the
largest turnover of any retail bakery in The Southern Hemisphere. It achieved
an annual turnover of $3 million, with $30,000 taken on one day (and
$140,000 in a seven day period).
Source: Good enough never is, p 16 (5)

       “I drew the big picture first, so I knew where I wanted to go. But
       then the bakery grew bigger than I ever thought possible”. (6)
       Source: Tom O‟Toole, Breadwinner, p 163

With staff share holders including Marty Matassoni, and Simon and Emma
Bedbrook, they opened Beechworth Bakeries in Echuca, Albury, Bendigo and
Ballarat, all of which became similarly successful. Tom was now getting closer
to realising his dream, having a Beechworth Bakery in a rural town in every
state of Australia.

Today Tom motivates others with inspirational seminars he conducts around
the world. He believes in setting goals, „getting you out of your comfort zone
and being enthusiastic about life‟. He‟s a wonderful role model, and I
personally have now had the pleasure of speaking to him, leaving me with a
greater sense of positive thinking and „rarin‟ to go!‟ He really is a true blue
Great Australian Baker. (7)
Source: Tom O‟Toole, Breadwinner.

Another Australian baker deserving of the title “GREAT BAKER” was Kevin
Hicks. He was born in 1924 in McKinnon, Victoria, and became involved in the
baking industry at 21 years of age when he was demobbed from the RAAF
after the Second World War. With only 100 pounds in his pocket he set out,
with great determination, to own his own business.

Kevin built his business gradually. He had to hire a baker‟s oven during the
day as ovens were not sold, but scrapped to limit competition. His mother,
who was a good cook, provided the recipes. His friends helped to mix the
dough and Kevin, with biscuit cutters taped to his hands to speed up the
process, worked tirelessly.

He also showed initiative by constructing a fold away conveyer belt which
reduced the time it took to clear the area for the night bakers and allowed
Kevin to have a longer production run. This early invention was the forerunner
of the Autobake Serpentine TM Baking System.

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                      4
       “I decided to use the shop to bake cookies and soon realised that
       to produce more, I needed a machine that took up very little
       space yet created maximum output and the idea to build a
       Serpentine machine was born.” (8)
       Source: Australian export-Australian Trade Commission.w w

Kevin entered the market with a unique point-of-sale biscuit oven, the
Serpentine TM. This innovative machine allowed him to bake fresh biscuits in
full view of the shopping public. The first machine began production in 1958 in
the Myer Department Store in Victoria, where it still operates today! This was
a blue-print for Kevin‟s involvement with Auto-bake machinery.

Kevin and his wife developed the Cookie Man retail chain with stores
operating around Australia and licensed operations in many other countries.
Kevin, however, chose to sell the Cookie Man business in the mid 90‟s to
direct the Autobake Serpentine TM Company towards focussing on its
engineering activities, thus adapting the Autobake Serpentine TM Baking
System to the „industrial production‟ of cakes, muffins, pies and even artisan

One single Autobake Serpentine TM Baking System had in-line features such
as; spray release, depositing, compact baking and cooling (including ambient
and refrigerated), injecting, decorating (including interchangeable units),
automatic transfer, freezing and in-line packaging, plus many other optional
equipment such as the paper case denester, nut topping unit and
interchangeable trays. Each stage was fully automated, and the entire line
could be overseen by a single operator, whose job was to respond to any
alarms that might go off, and also select recipes, using a PLC (Programmable
Logic Control) touch screen control unit. The Autobake Serpentine TM Baking
System was compact, flexible and efficient. It utilized far less space than
tunnel and band ovens, reducing building costs, and was also designed to
cope with high volumes of production.
Source: w w w.autobake (9)

         “Nobody in the world produces a high tech baking system or a
         Serpentine System as advanced as ours and we‟ve patented
         many of our products.” (10)
         Source: Australian export-Australian Trade Commission, w w w

Autobake Serpentine TM ovens were uniquely designed vertical ovens in which
pans or trays were suspended from a chain that moved continuously through
the oven in a vertical „S‟ shape. The product was then conveyed horizontally
through multiple levels (typically 11). They were capable of producing „cakes-
to-go‟ at a substantially high rate (6,500 per hour) which would never be
achieved manually.
Source: Vertical ovens make competitive wares, w w w (11)

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Autobake is a world leader today. The company has customers in Australia,
United States of America, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and many other
countries, while continuing to keep its base in Hornsby, Sydney, Australia.

Kevin‟s daughter, Amanda, succeeded him as Company Director and
continues to export what I consider to be one of Australia‟s greatest bakery

Kevin passed away in September 2005, aged 81. He was truly a pioneer in
the Australian Baking Industry. He was fortunate enough to achieve his

Yet another Australian baker who achieved the status of “GREAT BAKER”
was Sydney Packham. He was born in 1907 in North Sydney and was
introduced to the Baking Industry via his father‟s bakery at the very early age
of 11 months.

As a second generation baker, Syd assisted in the bakery at every given
opportunity. When his father passed away in 1929, he left his job at the
Commercial Bank of Australia, to help his mother manage the business. In
time Syd became the owner and manager when he purchased the bakery
from his mother.

In 1945 during a bakery accident, Syd severed four fingers on his right hand.
This accident did not deter Syd from the industry for which he had a passion.

Syd frequently travelled overseas where he gained exposure to new concepts
and this enabled him to bring innovative ideas back to Australia and into his

Some early improvements Syd introduced were a gas fired tunnel oven (able
to produce 1440 x 900g loaves per hour), a double-lap swing tray oven (which
provided a shiny, crisp crust to bread), and a Hassan slicing and wrapping
machine (which used wax printed paper). These advancements were crucial
in delivering a superior product to a growing market.
Source: Baking Business, p 24. (12)

Allied Mills Pty. Ltd. purchased the very successful Packham‟s Bakery in 1959
and Syd became an Area Manager for the company. Whilst working for Allied
Mills he witnessed the installation of the first American High Speed Mixer,
capable of mixing 12,400kg of dough per hour. Then the largest oven in The
Southern Hemisphere (at that time) was built to accommodate the larger
quantities of dough. Following this, one of the first bulk flour systems was
installed, as well as pan spray machines and depanners, all resulting in an
increase in production output and financial gain.
Source: Baking Business, p 24. (13)

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Syd not only had a passion for the Baking Industry and new equipment but
also for the affiliated associations. Initially introduced by his father, Syd
became interested in the local association of bakers. This later led to active
involvement in the American Society of Baking Engineers. He then founded,
based on this system, the Australian Society of Baking. His goal was to unite
baking identities for the purpose of exchanging technical baking knowledge,
ideas and concepts.

Other peak Industry bodies in which Syd was involved included; the
Association of Bread Manufacturers of Australia and New Zealand (BMANZ),
(where he was president), the Bread Research Institute (BRI) Australia (where
he was an Honorary Member), the Australian Society of Baking (where he
was Secretary Emeritus), the Bread Manufacturers Industry Association of
Australia and the NSW Baking Industry Association (where he was a life
member of both).
Source: Mr Sydney James Packham-Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) (14)

In 2002, on Australia Day Syd was awarded the Order of Australia (OAM). His
citation read:

         “For service to the food industry, particularly the development
         and promotion of bread making through the establishment of
         peak industry bodies…” (15)
         Source: Mr Sydney James PACKHAM-Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

Even in retirement Syd kept in touch with the Australian Society of Baking,
and, with his encouragement, both his sons, Ken and John, pursued careers
in the Australian Baking Industry and, they too, are administrators and
members of the ASB.
Source: Leading Edge Bakery and Food Service Journal, p 32 (16)

Sydney passed away on December 29, 2004, aged 97. He will always be
remembered by the dedicated bakers of today‟s industry.

         “He had one of the liveliest brains in the industry, maintaining
         his enthusiasm for its goals and achievements right up until his
         death…He was an administrator, pioneer, educator, public
         servant, friend, mentor and colleague.” (17)
         Source: Leading Edge Bakery and Food Service Journal, p 32

His name now lives on through The National Scholarship Awards which pay
homage to his life achievements.

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                       7
To summarise, each of these bakers, in their own individual ways, have
contributed to the betterment of this industry.

Tom O‟Toole had a vision, an excellent, an effective marketing plan. He
overcame the hardships of alcoholism and divorce. W ith hard work, and the
support of his second wife; he achieved his dream of making Beechworth
Bakery Australia‟s Greatest Bakery.

Kevin Hicks‟ driving need was to improve machinery in order to increase
production. His invention; Autobake Serpentine Baking TM System, was the
culmination of his dream. He achieved this through hard work as well.

Sydney Packham, while travelling overseas, saw new ideas which he knew
would improve the Australian Baking Industry. He also formed the Australian
Society of Baking to encourage other bakers to share technical knowledge
and ideas.

All these “GREAT BAKERS” have helped take our baking industry to where it
is today.

So…What is behind every Great Baker?

From the examples I have chosen it can be seen that they all have a unique
story, yet they all have common threads; innovative thinking, focussed
marketing initiatives, enthusiasm, passion, and the desire to achieve above
and beyond their boundaries. Each had a vision. They all had a passion for
their chosen profession - to them it was an answer, a solution for what they
perceived, they dreamt, they desired!

It‟s because of people like these men that I‟m honoured to be a baker today
and will strive to fulfil my dreams and aspirations.

One of these Great Australian Bakers recently told me “Climb as high as you
can dream”. I couldn‟t have asked for better advice from a living legend. And
yes…I intend to dream a lot!

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                  8

To Tom O‟Toole, for his help and inspirational words. Your generosity is
appreciated, thanks for the books.

To Evelyn Hicks, for her time and assistance.

Special Thanks:
To my boss, my mentor, whom I rate amongst the all time Greatest Bakers.
He is an inspiration to me, and encourages me to go forth and be successful.
He is supportive and teaches me something new everyday! A piece of advice
he gave me recently: “Think clearly and go slow so you get to where you want
to be quicker.” Sound advice from someone who knows.

Most of all thanks to all the Great Bakers in The Australian Industry, who
made my decision to pick this topic a quick one, but who made picking only a
few to write about a terribly long one.


          Tom O‟Toole              Kevin Hicks          Syd Packham
            1952 -                 1924 - 2005           1907 - 2004

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                 9

      (1), (2), (3), (6), (7) Breadwinner, Tom O‟Toole with Lowell Tarling,
       2005, BAS Publishing.
      (4), (5), Lessens from inspirational businesses in Rural Australia, Pg
       16, Pg 19, Good Enough Never Is.
      (16), (17), VALE Sydney J.Packham (OAM), Pg 32, Leading Edge
       Bakery & Food Service Journal.
      (14), (15), Mr Sydney James PACKHAM – Medal of the Order of
       Australia (OAM).
      (12), (13), Sydney J Packham OAM, Pg 24, Baking Business, 2005.
      (8), (10), From cake shop to export empire, Trade mark – Australian
       Export – Australian Trade Commission,
      (9),
      (11), Vertical ovens make competitive wares,
      Secrets of The Beechworth Bakery, Tom O‟Toole with Lowell Tarling
       and Matthew McLaurin, 2004, BAS Publishing.
      www.tomo‟

Behind Every Great Baker…?                                                      10

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