Building a community, one loaf of bread at a time
Whether you’re from Newcastle, Maitland, the Central Coast, or even further afield, chances are you’ve tasted some of the baked goodness from Lady Blackbird Sourdough and Pastry.
For the last few years, Carolyn McIntyre – AKA Lady Blackbird – has been bringing happiness to the people of our region in the form of bread, pies, pastries, and baked goods.
After decades of experience in hospitality and a stint slinging cafe eats and sourdough under the name Blackbird Artisan Bakery at Maitland Gaol, Carolyn took the leap and started her own business.
“After Blackbird at the gaol, I wasn’t going to go back into business. I was really burnt out, I’d come to a real crossroads in my life… On my last night, I just did brisket and potatoes and bread, and wrote to my regular customers saying ‘Please come and say goodbye, buy your drinks, but the food is free.’
“More than a hundred people turned up. They all lined the verandah and told me I couldn’t stop, because what I do is really different. And I was really shocked. I didn’t expect that,” Carolyn said.
Since then, Lady Blackbird has become a staple at the Newcastle City Farmers Market and the Gosford City Farmers Market. And in October 2022, Lady Blackbird opened the doors to its first storefront in Maitland’s High Street.
Carolyn likes to think of Lady Blackbird as a traditional bakery, much like one you might find in a French village. But traditional doesn’t mean ordinary at Lady Blackbird.
All the flour used at Lady Blackbird is pure, with no additives, and instead of vegetable oils and margarine, Carolyn only uses quality butter and olive oil. Plus, the bakery uses local ingredients wherever possible – when Lady Blackbird sets up at the markets, its suppliers are fellow stallholders just down the path.
It’s these relationships that are so important to Lady Blackbird – the bakery’s whole ethos is centred on community. It’s why the bakery donates its surplus food to the local food bank at St Peters Anglican Church in East Maitland, and why Carolyn has “friends, not customers.”
While Carolyn is the founding force behind Lady Blackbird, she’s quick to emphasise that the bakery is much bigger than her. Lady Blackbird’s Head Baker, Geoff Germon, has been integral to the business’ success.
With almost 30 years of experience in industrial bakeries, working with croissants and danishes at Lady Blackbird was a bit of a learning curve, but he’s taken it in his stride.
Lady Blackbird has been on a steady upward trajectory, and with its team of staff and community of sourdough and pastry lovers, there’s no signs of this changing.
“I think Lady Blackbird is about a whole lot of people who shine. It’s certainly much bigger than me. And that’s its strength and that’s its growth. It’s really lovely. It’s something that has brought me great joy.”