Rise Artisan Bakery Ettalong
Owner, baker and pastry chef Rob Smith tells us about the rise of his business Rise Artisan Bakery, his signature hand shaped crunchy sourdough loaves, and what’s next for this inventive and low waste cafe in Ettalong.
Thanks for your time Rob, firstly could you share a little about your background in baking/pastry making?
I started my apprenticeship in retail baking and pastry cooking when I was 16 after leaving school in year 10. I originally tried a pre-apprenticeship program in baking and funnily enough I hated it. I tried my hand at a few other trades which I equally disliked, but after a while I found myself walking into a bakery after a long day working at a wrecking yard and asked for a pie and a job. I started working the very next day.
I always knew that I wanted to work with my hands and had a passion for food, but it took a few goes for me to be sure of what I wanted to do for a profession, and I’m glad I was fortunate enough to be given another chance in this industry. For the next 15 years I worked across Sydney and the Central Coast in factories and bakeries, both commercial and small business, making baked goods and pastries.
Rise Bakery used to be Sasa Sicilian, what was the inspiration and intention for reopening as Rise?
After working so hard for so long, helping businesses and my employers turn a profit, I wanted to translate that effort into something I can call my own. As well as having the freedom to do and make whatever I wanted and thought people wanted. After researching for many months and looking at a few locations that just weren’t quite what I was looking for, I was given an opportunity to work at Sasa as their manager for a few months to raise funds to be able to open up as my own business.
I used that time to learn what made the business work, what the locals and tourists liked and wanted in a product, and what I could offer to these people and the market. After a few months experience and some help from the previous owners, Rise was born.
I really admired what Sasa was able to do over their time but that was their name, their hard work and their Sicilian heritage quite literally in the name. Not only did they want to keep the Sasa name as their own, I also wanted to put my own mark on the inherited shop and community and differentiate the change in ownership with a fresh start and new name, and Rise just seemed a good fit.
What do you want to be known for as a bakery on the Central Coast?
One of the things I’m most passionate about and makes our bakery stand out from others is making as much as I possibly can from scratch.
You can save a lot of time and wages by buying pre-made tart shells, fruit curd, cake mixes, pastries, doughs, icing, the list goes on. But making my own gives me the best product I can put up even if it takes longer and more effort to make.
I think our customers can taste that difference. The other is being very low waste - trying to use as much of a product as possible and repurposing excess doughs to make innovative products. We use recycled packaging where possible and do what we can to minimise our waste footprint both front and back of house.
How has Rise been received by locals so far?
All the locals have been very welcoming over the last year since the transition from Sasa to Rise. I’ve brought my own recipes to this community and spend a lot of hours every week or two trying to perfect new techniques and flavours to keep everyone interested, while still supplying the crowd favourites and some of the products that pay homage to Sasa as well.
What do you think makes a great bakery?
For me two things come to mind. The first is patience, which if you ask my staff, probably isn’t my strong suit but definitely something I’ve had to improve to grow as a business and a baker/pastry cook! I have the freedom now to make whatever I want but it can take a long time from first having the idea, through trial and error, to produce a result I’m happy with. When you are paying the bills, employing people who are dependent on you, and running the shop and things don’t go to plan you have to be able to bounce back, adapt and keep turning up.
The other is being proud of what you produce. We make that effort to get in early, as many bakers and pastry chefs would know, to put the time in to make the best product I’m capable of. Even if sometimes that means starting from scratch if something hasn’t worked out or met the standard I expect and our customers deserve.
What is your most popular pastry?
Our most popular pastry would have to be the Berry Bombs. They started as a way to minimise croissant dough wastage and offer another indulgent sweet. They were always such a huge hit that I wanted to adapt some savoury options as well, giving way to our Breaky Bombs which have been very well received and have tweaked based on customer feedback to get them just right. It’s not often that there are any Berry or Breaky Bombs left in the cabinet at the end of a day’s trade, and if you’re coming in to get one of a weekend all I can suggest is come in early!
What's next for Rise? What should people look out for or get excited about?
I have a few ideas on the “Rise” and as we start to get into winter I’ll have some seasonal options to warm everybody up. We already offer some sausage rolls including vegetarian options, but house made pies are my next product coming very soon which will be entirely from scratch with our pastries and filling. I’m also currently working hard on some new croissant recipes and increasing our range of breads and sourdoughs. Aside from that I’ll always be trying something new to keep everybody on their toes so follow us on our social media and come by our shop for a pastry, some bread or just a coffee and see what we are all about, we can’t wait to meet you!