Cumbria seems to breed inspirational business women and particularly in the food arena. One such lady is Lisa Smith, owner, director and driving force behind Ginger Bakers, one of an ever-increasing number of creative, modern food brands here in the Lake District.
Originally an art psychotherapist from Cheshire, on moving to Cumbria Lisa decided to diversify, change career and create a business out of her passion for baking. Naming her business after her red-headed children (not the ingredient), she first started selling cakes and now her trademark traybakes to farmers’ markets back in 2006. Offering a product that was mostly gluten-free (over 70% of her bakes to be precise) her aim was to offer the independent cafés, delicatessans and farm shops something local, different and above all of utmost quality and taste.
Very relaxed, Lisa comes across as positive and calm, smiling wryly when she describes how her entire kitchen in Dockray Hall was completely flooded in that mega trickle of rain we suffered back in December 2015. True Cumbrian spirit came to her rescue in the form of Aidan Monks of Lovingly Artisan who quickly offered her temporary space in his bakery over at Plumgarth’s on the Crook Road near Kendal. Tested to the limits, Lisa and her small team of bakers could only create their cakes and traybakes between 10pm and 3am, given that Aidan needed to start baking his own bread after the early morning cut-off. But despite this tale of woe there is a happy ending; for if Aidan hadn’t come to the rescue as her knight in shining armour, Lisa would never have met with the owners of Plumgarth’s who decided to build her a brand new kitchen right opposite Lovingly Artisan.
This isn’t just a great serendipitous yarn; it’s a story of true grit, resilience and sense of community that I’ve grown to absolutely love about Cumbria and its people. Not only does Lisa have the space for a huge modern kitchen, she now employs 7 people and is set to take on 2 apprentices from Kendal College – something she is really excited about.
Vehemently proud of where she lives, Lisa takes an active role in the Slow Food Movement – a fabulous idea that gives life to ancient foods and recipes about to disappear. It’s all very wholesome really – just like nature, her aim is to ensure that almost-forgotten recipes such as the Westmorland Pepper Cake are reinvigorated. Resonant of the spice trade that made its way through Cumbria in years gone by, ithis traditional cake is created using the key ingredients of ginger and black pepper. She hands me a loaf and recommends I try it with cheese. It’s different but absolutely fabulous and just like apple or grape, the slight sweetness is the perfect match with cheese and the savoury undertones of pepper and ginger give it a spicy kick.
So what is the future for Ginger Bakers? With a new website just launched and the expansion already into Booths and Co-Operative stores in the county, Lisa is keen to retain her core recipes – just 22 in total with Raspberry & Almond Blondie her best seller. She’s careful about expansion and intends to do so whilst retaining the care and attention to quality ingredients that have created her successful brand in the first place. Good luck to Lisa and her team of Ginger Bakers!
Buy online at gingerbakers.co.uk/shop
Ginger Bakers, Lakeland Food Park, Crook Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 8QJ