When the youngest of Philippa Stephenson’s five children went off to school, she could have been excused for putting her feet up or taking a stress-free part-time job. After all, she had spent many years studying psychology, followed by 20 years out of the workforce focussing on her children – now aged between 19 and 7.
But, instead Philippa (at the age of 49) made the brave move of changing her career entirely and opening the popular Grey Lynn bakery, Tart Bakery. And she hasn’t just launched a new bakery, but in doing so has encapsulated her own personal philosophies in the business – in the way all the products are baked, and also with her focus on hiring older members of staff.
“Food has always been of great interest to me. Ironically, as a psychologist I worked with people who were over-eating and now I am feeding people, “ she smiles. “It’s all with good old-fashioned style home cookery with the best of ingredients.”
As her fifth child started school, Philippa started her studies at Manukau Institute of Technology. She then went out to work in several local bakery businesses for a year to gain the practical experience needed.
Tart Bakery opened on July 25 last year in the heart of the Grey Lynn shops. From the leadlight windows along the top of the entrance, to the plump scones, traditional lamingtons and buns oozing with real cream, it definitely has the welcoming ambience of a bakery of yesteryear. But, it also incorporates a modern and very international twist.
That old favourite, ginger crunch, has been tarted up with some crystallised ginger, the freshly-baked baguettes beg to be eaten straight from the paper bag, while the Danish pastries rival those produced in Europe’s best patisseries. The regular good old Kiwi pies (such as steak and cheese) are all on sale, but Tart also bakes a special Nacho pie – tasting just like the Mex-Tex treat.
“It’s all real ingredients here (such as the best of fruit-filled jams) used and no pre-mixes, additives or fillers. All our breads are made with sour dough, which is so much better for health,” Philippa explains. “We’ve gone back to the old style of baking.”
Five different varieties of bread – ranging from ciabatta through to Danish kibbled rye– are stacked tantalisingly in baskets. Philippa is hoping to see a shift in Kiwis’ bread-buying habits, moving away from supermarket purchases to the European way of buying bread – on a daily basis from a neighbourhood bakery.
Philippa is supported by a staff of three full-time and a band of casual part-timers. When considering her return to work, she was horrified at how difficult it was for those over 40 years of age (particularly women) to find new jobs – especially if they wanted to branch out into a new career. She believes strongly in importance of hiring older employees, who use their experience and initiative. “The older workers do not ring up sick if they break a nail and they will do all the jobs needing done.”
I was served seriously good coffee by Tart’s 68-year-old barista – so I’m not arguing. And the sandwiches prepared by Philippa’s mother looked very appetising as well.
Tart Bakery has a vibrant buzz and there’s a real sense of community amongst the shop-keepers and regular customers in this patch of Grey Lynn. It’s also very much a family business. Philippa’s husband, Paul, who runs his own health research consultancy is a critically important support person.
Their eldest son, Mac, has trained as a baker and is now working at Tart part-time, while Tasman (aged17) was serving customers the day I called in and the others love being involved. After 20 years of devotion to her five children, Philippa Stephenson, is now enjoying their support in her mid-life career change.
Tart Bakery, 555 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. Phone: 376 5535