What brings a former Chef and Hotelier to running a bakery in the West beach area of Adelaide?
Norm Collins and his wife Lynne have recently taken over Bakers Edge Bakery, and are looking to change things up to provide the locals of the beachside area with the best coffee and cakes, and even a vegan sausage roll on the menu. There are big changes on the horizon for the local bakery.
We sat down with Norm to find out how it’s all going and to pick his brain about the Hospitality game.
Can you build work life balance in to a Hospitality career? Yes, and No he says. Norm spent 72 hours a week in the kitchen for his apprenticeship and learnt so much in a condensed amount of time. To get the skill you need to work hard.
“I couldn’t have learnt everything I learnt in a 30 hour week, and a lot of people are not willing to put in the time to learn the craft.”
Norm was either going to be a Chef, a Physiotherapist, or an Architect, settling on becoming a Chef as he loved the industry and the fun of cooking.
He believes that one of the major challenging factors facing the industry is that people don't have the throw-away dollar anymore.
“People are not sure what’s around the corner, and if people are not sure what’s around the corner the economy slows, and one of the areas it slows first is Hospitality.”
People used to come to our venues and eat, stay, drink, but now people are busier than ever before. Before you used to be able to buy time with the person. Now people are often too busy to spend much time with you.
The industry has almost outpriced itself with its high wages. Wage costs on weekends can be crippling for Hospitality business owners trying to keep their doors open, and this costs jobs in in the long run.
“I don’t know anyone out there with a hotel who doesn’t have 90% of their family working on a Sunday”
Starting his Apprenticeship back in 1980 at Ayers House, he was given the job of managing the gueridon trolley, putting him out on the floor during services face to face with customers as well as cooking in the kitchen. Norm loved the face to face contact of being on the floor.
Moving out of the kitchen into running venues happened almost by accident when he applied for a job up North. At the time he was in the kitchen at the Kings Head Hotel; when he sat down with his boss to get a reference he was faced with a unique proposition.
“How about you run the Hotel, and in turn teach me how to cook”
This offer was his first foray in running the business side of a Hospitality venue, and with the owner they soon turned the pub around. Norm had a natural aptitude for seeing opportunities and areas that venues could do well.
Moving on to work for well-known Hospitality Family (The Temple family) at their Hotel in Victor Harbour, he turned their kitchen around in six months. Norm has had great mentors throughout his time in the industry, one of those being Roy Temple, “He was a gentleman and really good at the trade. He taught the basics of what people forget to teach in the industry.”
Norm states there is one simple rule to stay at the top of the game. “Great customer service.”
“A lot of people forget to walk out the front of their business and look at the business like a customer. It’s totally different behind a bar than as a customer on the other side”
By far one of his proudest achievements would be his 8 years at the Palais Hotel and tripling their profits. He knows that his greatest career achievements are in turning businesses around, and during his time at the helm of a business he has never really stepped too far away from the kitchen, believing that to be a good operator you need to be across the kitchen, the bar, and the staff management to be successful.
“It’s when I’m hands on and can make things work that I can put pride back into a venue”
The art of delegation has been one of his biggest management learning curves in business. In his time at the Palais Hotel his management team said; “We don’t get to manage, you’re always here and you run it”
This was an important lesson in his career to give the people who worked for him ownership of their work. “We had good staff and we put them in the right spots and everything worked well after that.” “The best way to motivate staff is to make them feel it’s their business as well as your business, let everyone have something to take ownership of”. His skill was in saying here’s an idea, and putting his staff in charge of making it happen.
Burn out is common in the Hospitality industry, especially in cooking. The peek pressure of having to perform twice a day can wear thin on Chefs over time.
“You need to be on all the time.”
After 16 years in the kitchen and becoming an Executive Chef, he has learnt that managing a kitchen can be a delicate process. You know by about 5:50pm every night if you are in for a good night depending on where you are at with your Mise en place. “If you’re not ready it can be a stressful and long shift.”
Self-care has always been a priority for him and his company name “Jay-Tori” is named after his two children as a reminder every time he does something what he was doing it for. He said if he could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in the industry, it would be to: “Aim to be the best at whatever you do”
On taking over a Bakery as the next career step?
“Quite weird buying a bakery never having baked before, but as a chef you understand the science of food and having good business systems in place is key”.
We took on existing staff, and have moved them in to how we do service. We have also been lucky to take over family recipes from 4 generations.
Everything at Bakers edge is made on premise. “We buy green coffee beans then toast and blend them here at the bakery”.
And Norm believe he makes the best coffee. A big call, and one worth putting to the test!
The Bakery is specialising in coffee. People are loving the coffee, “They are driving from Henley to here – which is not that far in distance, but it is an achievement when they drive past six coffee joints on the way”.
And the Vegan sausage roll? It is all about texture and taste. All the nuts are taken out of it. So it ticks a box for people who have nut allergies as well.
“My mum lost her sense of taste years before she died, so she started eating by texture”. This is the main approach with the sausage roll; to provide a textural taste sensation.
Norm is the true sense of the word Hospitality, and is one of those people who makes you feel like you’ve walked in to their home kitchen and plonked yourself at the table to taste some home-made bread.
Pop down and see the team at Bakers Edge soon and be the judge of their coffee and Vegan sausage roll for yourself!