Donald Anderson is the CEO of Aberdeen-based The Bread Maker.
Donald Anderson is the CEO of Aberdeen-based The Bread Maker.

Time to expand for Aberdeen’s The Bread Maker

For many of us, whiling away an afternoon baking is a therapeutic pastime. Mixing simple ingredients and watching them transform into a delicious loaf or sponge is like some sort of beautiful witchcraft – and for the rest who don’t partake in the making of them, it is still a joy to eat these wonderful creations.

But for Donald Anderson, CEO of The Bread Maker in Aberdeen City, baking is much more than just a form of relaxation; having joined the bread-making team in 2015, he quickly realised the bakery’s value in providing vital life skills to adults with learning disabilities in the north east of Scotland.

‘A man called Dr Denis Durno was a local GP who served his whole working life in Aberdeen,’ says Donald. ‘He had three sons, and two of them had a learning disability. Through that, Denis engaged with Camphill School Aberdeen – a community for people with a variety of special needs – and later became their chairman.’

Donald Anderson is the CEO of Aberdeen-based The Bread Maker.

Having seen first-hand the benefits of Camphill’s on-site bakery, Denis and three other health professionals wished to create something further reaching than the school’s four walls. As such, they proposed the idea of launching a charity and baking business that would offer adults with special needs meaningful employment and training in customer-facing roles. With a bit of funding from the NHS and the help of an administrator, the Aberdeen Day Project was born.

By the time The Bread Maker had been established as the trading arm of the charity in 2006, the team had raised a million pounds for staff salaries for the first three years.

Currently, 28 staff teach 28 apprentices alongside 5 volunteers, all of whom work to produce a beautiful array of bread. Both The Bread Maker’s sit-in cafe and takeaway are also manned by the apprentices who are tasked with serving customers and working the tills on a daily basis.

One of The Bread Maker’s apprentices, Liz.

‘I saw the merits of working with adults with learning disabilities,’ says Donald. ‘Because of what they could put back into Aberdeen City and society as a whole.’

With an extension to the bakery already underway, Donald hopes that the new space will allow them to host further baking courses with better facilities for production.

‘At the moment, we run about four or five bread courses a year, but this will give us a purpose-built area. It’s currently a bit tight for space,’ explains Donald.

The courses, which can be booked online or by phone, show the adults how to make white bread, plaited white bread with herbs, wholemeal loaves and focaccia. These creations sound incredibly impressive, but Donald assures me it’s easy when you’re shown how.

The Bread Maker offers courses for adults with learning disabilities, as well as apprentice roles.

Along with the new development plans, an SCQ assessor will also be joining the team so that qualifications can be delivered in-house to the apprentices.

‘It’s becoming a real training hub. You can imagine people with learning disabilities going through school and never getting a qualification. So even at 30, getting a qualification for the first time in their life is a major achievement,’ says Donald.

That said, there is far more to The Bread Maker than just providing opportunities, as Donald goes on to explain: ‘Everything we do, we do by hand. Our products are produced only an hour or so before people are buying it.

‘It’s not just about getting people to buy something from The Bread Maker because it’s supporting adults with learning disabilities; we’ve got to make the best product as well for people to enjoy.’

What’s more, it’s not just their walk-in customers that are expecting quality products; The Bread Maker also supplies a number of local businesses, including the likes of Café Cognito, and caters for corporate events and buffets.

Commenting on his four years at The Bread Maker, Donald says that it is a joy going into work every day, each morning being met by enthusiastic individuals who are keen to learn.

‘The energy that our apprentices bring is great. There’s always an adult with a learning disability with a big smile on their face. Here, there’s a different kind of energy than in any other place I’ve worked in.’

With their next baking course already being booked up for 1 September, the team are looking forward to welcoming a new wave of talent in the bakery.

To find out more about The Bread Maker, visit their website.

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