Richard and Jo Bertinet – interview

Baking a Difference. 

Richard and Jo Bertinet image This probably was love at first bite! Richard Bertinet had no other idea than to become a baker. His uncle had a bakery in Paris and his mum used to work behind the counter in a baker’s shop. Richard would haunt the local bakery to watch the befloured and T-shirted men (could fancy that myself!) working at the hot ovens.

Richard started his career in earnest when he was still at school. He would spend half his time at his lessons and then the other half and weekends at the bakery. After leaving school he continued his training at a number of bakeries in Brittany and also with the Grand Moulin de Paris.

In the mid 1980’s Richard moved to the UK and his catering journey progressed via the Chewton Glen Hotel, Hampshire, becoming head chef at the Rhinefield House Hotel in the New Forest. The Silver Plough at Pitton in Salisbury is where in 1990 he was awarded Egon Ronay’s Pub of the Year, and American Express Magazine’s UK Pub of the Year.

In 1996, a position as Operations Director with the Novelli Group of restaurants brought him to London, where in 1998 he started advising small food-related businesses. After leaving Novelli Richard started working with a number of small businesses helping them to improve the quality of their food, and the business flourished such that he set up the Dough Co., his consultancy business, in 2000.

Between 2000 and 2004, Richard split his time between consultancy work, advising on the development of new products for several supermarket chains, teaching at London cookery school Divertimenti, and writing.

In 2004, with a young family, Richard and his wife Jo decided that it was time to leave London and head west to be closer to Jo’s family. The plans for The Bertinet Kitchen began to take shape and they found the premises at 12 St Andrew’s Terrace, Bath, at the tail end of that year. The cookery school opened in September 2005 in the same month that Richard’s first baking book, DOUGH, was published. The Bertinet Kitchen has done so well that it is the winner of Tourism Experience of the Year 2008/9 South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

“I have been a baker almost all of my life and crazy about bread since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I started teaching people how to bake simple breads at home that I really appreciated what fun, and what a sense of achievement almost everyone experiences when they realise, for the first time, what can be done with some flour, yeast, water and a little salt.”

I asked Jo if she also had a catering background. “Nope – until June 2005 I was a commercial litigation lawyer in the city at one of the big international firms – I had done that for 13 years but found it difficult to combine with a family, so the cookery school was a way for Richard and I to work together and combine our talents.”

Has Richard noticed a change in British food since he first moved to the UK? He remembers his arrival in 1988. “In Britain I knew there was a strong tradition of home baking, but when I arrived here I was shocked to find that very few people were bothering to any more, not because there was a fantastic bakery around every corner, but because the staple diet was the sliced white loaf.” Jo and Richard both agree that things are much better these days. “Absolutely yes – much improved – there has been a complete revolution in this country and in many places it is now much better than France,” says Jo.

Even if you marry a chef it’s likely that you will be the one cooking for the kids. “I tend to cook for the children but Richard usually cooks for friends – we eat very informally at home – lots of simple French and British home cooking.”

Would Richard and Jo be happy if the kids wanted to become bakers? The hours are said to be horrible! “I am sure Richard would be happy that they wanted to follow in his footsteps but I can think of much easier ways to make a good living!”

So, plans for the future? I can tell you that Richard Bertinet is working on another couple of books. All those of us who appreciated his first two look forward to more.

Richard and jo Bertinet Bread



Interview by Chrissie Walker © 2018


Read more articles about Richard Bertinet here