A few years ago, James Partington was a marketing man. But just last week his bakery, Staple Bread & Necessities, was awarded best sourdough in Sydney by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (the organisation behind the Easter Show).
The Staple story started in 2012 when Partington had major heart surgery. “I had to take eight to 12 weeks off work. I was told to get my shoulders and chest moving so I thought making bread would be good,” he says.
Partington enjoyed it so much he started doing baking courses, including one with legendary US baker Jeffrey Hamelman, author of Bread, which got him the Julia Child Award for best first book.
He then bought a woodfired oven for his home and ingrained himself in Sydney’s small but incredibly dedicated artisan baking community.
“I spent hours, hours and hours making bread. It started getting out of control. I was baking from nine to three every Saturday. People were ordering breads via my Facebook page,” he says.
Eventually he had to decide: drop the bread making or become a full-time baker. He went with the latter.
Now he runs Staple, a tiny, three-day-a-week bakery in Seaforth on Sydney’s northern beaches, where he sells just two things: croissant-style pastries and loaves of bread.
Partington’s breads are typical of Sydney’s new-wave of baking (see Berkelo, where breads are made with long fermentations, natural yeast (naturally collected, not from a packet) and flour from NSW’s Wholegrain Milling, one of Australia’s few certified stone-ground milling companies. “At the moment I'm using a bit of their heritage range – an older grain they're trying to rekindle. I put a bit in everything,” he says.
The regular sourdough loaf (he also occasionally has spelt and rye loaves) is noticeably different to the off-white loaves most people are accustomed to; it’s closer to a walnut colour. “It's like what I think wheat should taste like, very earthy and nutty,” says Partington.
The croissants are naturally leavened, too. And although they are a bit doughier than usual, they’re more stylistically standard. Staple sells regular croissants, chocolate croissants and sticky “Balgowlah buns” made with croissant off-cuts.
And that’s about it – there are no cakes, very few seats aside from an outside bench or two, and no coffee, just a counter with some of the best sourdough loaves in Sydney. “There’s nothing new in what I’m doing. There’s no new wheel, just a slightly different one. People seem to like it, so that’s nice,” says Partington.
Staple Bread & Necessities
Shop 1, 20–28 Montauban Avenue, Seaforth
0414 525 151
Fri to Sun 7am–2pm