CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

Graphic designer to artisan baker

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 January 2014

Croissants are a labour of love

Croissants are a labour of love

SUB

It may seem like a big jump but Phil Nicodem at Lievito Bakery always had too much energy to just sit behind a desk all day

Words: Andrew Warren

Phil NicodemPhil Nicodem

Why bread? Why not gardening, or something else physical? Phil 
smiles and then 
lifts another 25kg bag of flour from the 
stack by the door.

“Bread can be physical,” he says.

We’re talking in his purpose-built 
bakery, tucked in between a micro-
brewery and a dairy farm opposite the 
River Brue in Lovington.

The place is all dusty with flour and I mention the delicious, warm, yeasty smell of newly-baked bread for the fourth time in as many minutes.

“I can’t smell it,” Phil says.

“Too much exposure, I suppose. But everyone comments on it.”

So, how does a graphic designer make the change to artisan baker?

“My interest in food began early. 
My parents ran a fruit and veg shop 
in Wells High Street. Food was in 
our blood. It’s vital.

"Bread takes time, and the more time you give it, the better it’s going to be"

“On the weekends and during the holidays, I’d get up early and go with dad to the market: four or five in the morning. It was great. The banter, the smell – and when no one was looking, the taste.

“Dad’s from Abruzzo in central Italy. Food is a big deal, there, and bread especially. He taught me about baking. 
He started me off with simple pizza 
bases. Then he shared his other secrets: ciabatta, focaccia.

“And although I don’t usually like making cakes,” he adds, “I will make a panettone for Christmas.”

I watch him with interest, and 
he looks up.

“It’s about love,” he says, working the dough with a firm hand.

We’re interrupted by another customer, and he stands behind his counter and explains what’s on offer. Money 
changes hands.

“I never expected the passing trade to be so much a part of what I do,” he says, returning to his shaping. “I thought it would be all wholesale, but I’ve just extended the counter – and I’ve got a proper till, too.”

I look at his counter. It’s made from old boxes and planks of wood he found in a disused dairy. It’s piled high with so many varieties of bread, it’s not feasible to list them in the space available. And while 
I am there, a whole cross-section of folk come to buy.

“Word just seems to have gotten around. Saturday is really busy.” I know that’s true. I’ve waited in line on a Saturday morning for my warm croissants, served by Genna, his wife.

I wonder what his bestselling loaf is.

“It varies,” he says. “Some days I can’t make enough milk loaf, and others the sesame and semolina loaf flies off the counter. But probably, my Somerset sour dough is the most popular.

“You don’t add yeast to a sour dough. Instead, the dough draws from the naturally-occurring bacteria in the atmosphere – so it’s influenced by 
the local area.”

Standing outside, you can smell the beer, the cut grass and the fresh breeze off the river. Plenty of influences here then.

I watch as he begins to slice the top of his baguettes using a homemade implement based around a razor blade.

“It’s the French style. Each baker signs his loaves this way,” he explains.

I confess that I bake my own bread from time to time and I ask what his top tip would be for a home baker.

“Patience,” he says without hesitation.

“Bread takes time, and the more time you give it, the better it’s going to be.” 
I nod and promise myself that I’ll try 
and slow down.

“And keep the salt and yeast separate for as long as possible,” he adds.

“Do you know” he says, “I do get people coming in and asking what’s gone wrong with their sour dough.

“I always offer them some advice, so maybe I could run a clinic. In fact, I’d like to run courses,” he says.

“Perhaps a beginners’ course on making pizzas or simple loaves and then maybe an advanced course for people that want to take it further.”

Things are going in and coming out of the ovens all the time. Did I mention the delicious, warm, yeasty smell? I am amazed at how easily he is able to remember what’s in where and how long it’s been in there. I frequently burn the single loaf I’m baking.

We talk about a typical working week.

“Most days, I’m here by 3am and work until around 6pm.

“Saturdays, I have to be here at midnight to get it all done. Croissants are a real labour of love, and we make all our own almond paste for the almond ones which takes more time.

“But it’s not just me; there’s Fin, my new baker. She’s just so creative with pastries. And on Saturdays, I also have Jake. And of course, Genna helps at the weekends whenever she can, despite having a full-time job.”

I wonder about his social life, his 
other commitments.

“This is my life – and I love it. I’d rather be doing this than anything else.”

The baguettes are coming out, and I know I mentioned the delicious, warm, yeasty smell before, but it’s still 
working its magic.

They go into a basket on the counter. He starts to work on a sweet dough onto which he spreads melted butter, local apples and sultanas. This he rolls up and then slices 
for baking.

“It’s a Lovington Bun,” he tells me, 
and later, unable to resist, I take one 
home; I can recommend it with a 
strong espresso. Delicious.

If you fancy one yourself, or want 
to try something more continental, 
pop in and see Phil.

0 comments

More from People

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The first woman to win a F3 class race at Brands Hatch, Bath-born Jamie Chadwick is on a new racing mission

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can give a new lease of life to our village hall.”

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can provide the children with a much-needed outdoor space to learn, helping to truly enrich their curriculum.”

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

England football manager Gareth Southgate has made our columnist feel proud of his country

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Musician Stewart Copeland relives his Somerset school memories with Bernard Bale

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Toby Buckland is hosting his second Harvest Festival event at Forde Abbey this month. Catherine Courtenay spoke to two of the gardening stars lined up for the speakers tent

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tinnitus sufferers are being invited to use a new online, sound matching tool to help better understand their type of tinnitus and the potential treatments available to them.

Read more
Friday, August 17, 2018

Tony Blackburn is enjoying one of the most enduring careers in music. To think that Somerset played such a part in the amazing story of one of Britain’s top radio DJs

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Britain has always been at the mercy of the sea and the Bristol Channel is particularly hazardous with fierce tides, shallow banks and dangerous low tide mudflats, as Andrea Cowan discovers

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Vanessa White is totally at home when she strolls through the centre of New York or Paris but the former Saturdays singing star still finds her place of birth quite breathtaking. After all – she was born in Somerset, says Bernard Bale

Read more
Friday, June 15, 2018

We know we love our coast, but what do the celebs make of it? We find out...

Read more
Friday, June 15, 2018

Somerset toasted the success of Jenson Button when he was crowned king of the F1 track for 2009, so stand by because there is a new budding driver revving up – and he is from our county too

Read more
Friday, May 25, 2018

One of the biggest British vloggers, three of the best UK comedians, a Formula One World Champion and an award-winning author – the towns and rural retreats of Somerset are a breeding ground for talent

Read more
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We talked to chief audiologist at The Tinnitus Clinic, Mark Williams, who discussed causes, symptoms and treatments for tinnitus and hearing loss. Here’s what to do if you have ringing in your ears

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


subscription ad


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search