Nestled on Seaforth’s Montauban Avenue, at the western end of a tranquil row of shops where you can safely add the certainty of a deluxe parking spot to life’s assuredness checklist of death and taxes, your olfactory senses will guide you to the sourdough and pastry wonderland of James Partington’s Staple Bakery. And while his delectable array of loaves, baguettes and croissants are supreme by every measure, this knockabout, displaced Yorkshireman’s consummate baking talent is a relatively newly discovered phenomenon, both for James and his lucky customers.
In 2012 James was bounding through life, a marketing wiz at the helm of his own bustling agency, managing strategic campaigns for whopper-fee-paying clients, and blissfully unaware of his preternatural penchant for baking, as well as the ticking congenital defect time bomb in his bicuspid aortic valve. Were it not for a pesky chest infection garnered from an unwavering commitment to swimming Bold and the Beautiful dawn patrols to Shelly Beach 365 days a year, James may never have needed to front up for the cardiothoracic X-ray that ultimately saved him from residing six feet under before his 38th birthday. “Luckily enough, a friend of mine is up there as the best heart surgeon in the country. When he told me how serious it was, I knew to pay attention.” Following the X-ray, and some further immediate tests, James was instructed to go straight home, do nothing, rest, and await open heart surgery to correct the mortality confirming anomaly.
As you can imagine, it was a piece of cake to chill out for the following 10weeks. “On top of the heart issue, they told me I had an aortic arch aneurysm which could escalate any second, my family were in the middle of moving house, our third child had just been born and I still had a marketing agency with 18 staff to oversee and demanding clients to keep happy.”
Well, James is here today, so his resourcefulness and coolness under pressure has been proven beyond doubt, but in a quirk of fate during the early days of rehabilitation in late 2012, it was remarked by a doctor that to build the chest muscles back up post-op, the process of baking bread was ideal for regaining full function, for providing the best functional exercise to strengthen the muscles around the rib cage and upper chest. “I don’t know why that advice grabbed me so powerfully, but I was transfixed. I kneaded dough desperately. Baking became my obsession. Something I’d never even contemplated now ruled my life.”
James did return to his marketing role, but in his mind’s eye, all he could see was grain, flour and bread, gripped by a mid-loaf crisis well and truly. “We lived at 138 Queenscliff Road” which became known as ‘Baked at 138’, “and every Friday I’d race home from work, so excited, ready to bake! I’d park my woodfire oven in the driveway, do the mixing in the laundry, and 7am Saturday morning, neighbours came round to buy their freshly baked loaves.” James even had pre-orders from the Bold and Beautiful crowd, riding his bike down to hand out the goods.
For the next five years James kept a foot in the marketing world, despite losing interest in the business he’d created, and eventually committed full throttle to his baking destiny in 2018 with the sale of his agency and the securing of the Seaforth premises, which has already expanded to a wholesale bakery in Cromer and a soon-to-be unveiled Manly Staple hub. “Open heart surgery, for me, it gave me absolute clarity around my own mortality, how precious this life is. And I’m not going to waste a single moment doing anything I don’t love.” In a stroke of gargantuan good fortune for Beaches gluten devourers, James loves to bake! Something we should all be very thankful for.
Follow @staple_bread on Instagram & pop into the Seaforth Bakery on Montauban Ave