The familiar face behind Cinnamon Tree Bakery shares her thoughts on food and market life
I first started working for The Cinnamon Tree Bakery in their bakery in Peckham, south London, where we make everything. A few years ago, having worked on another stall at the Market previously, I also started doing some shifts on the stall. I have really enjoyed being here again.
Talking to the customers is lovely, especially dealing with children. They get excited when they see things like the gingerbread men and shortbread owls. But I think my favourite thing is setting up the stall in the morning. When you arrive at your spot there is nothing there and you create this lovely space full of beautiful products. There is something I love about that transformation.
The owners of Cinnamon Tree Bakery, Anita and Andy, are wonderful people. They are a couple and run the business together. I like working for them: they are great communicators and trust you to run the stall well. I sometimes send them pictures of what we are doing on the stall and they keep us informed about what is going on back at the bakery. Andy is always working on something new. He is so passionate and creative, and I love the fact that there is always something interesting to try.
One product that I think more people should try is the tahini flapjacks. People think they know what a flapjack is—but the way that Anita and Andy do these lifts them above the ordinary. They have cinnamon in them, as well as some other tweaks. They are a bit different—and delicious.
There is a lovely old lady who comes regularly for the tahini flapjacks and the choca-rocka bars and we always have a little chat. She is a violin player, and always buys several of each to take back and share with her friends. I start getting her order ready when I see her approaching and she appreciates the fact that I connect with her as an individual. That kind of interaction is one of the lovely things about working on the stall.
I have loved food my whole life. My mother says I was always the first to finishing eating and would happily eat any food my siblings left. I love Indian dishes; they use such interesting spice combinations. I also enjoy Ethiopian and other African cuisines and I am a big lover of Greek food. Dishes that are hot and a bit spicy appeal to me.
Working at Borough Market has changed my attitude to food. It has been a huge blessing—and a little bit of a curse. On the one hand you are surrounded by such great produce and ingredients here that you learn to appreciate real quality when you see it, but that also means you learn to spot poor quality produce as well and it’s very hard to continue buying it once you know. I get a lot of my ingredients here. Things like olives I only buy at the Market.
There is a real sense of camaraderie here at the Market and I love that. The traders all know and support each other. We buy each other’s products for professional as well as personal use, and there is a real desire to support other trader’s businesses. There are always some challenges working at a stall, so it is nice to know that you can count on them.
Christmas is my favourite season in the Market. There is a cosy feeling, with the stall all lit up on the dark afternoons. It can be cold but when you wrap up warm and have a hot drink, it is really nice. There is just that wonderful holiday feeling that the customers have at Christmas that doesn’t happen at any other time of the year. Also, even though it can get extremely busy, there is a happy seasonal atmosphere among the traders.
If I could take home one thing from the stall it would be the tiffin. We take the cuttings from the shortbread and the dough from other products that we haven’t used and bake them. They are then thoroughly mixed into rich, dark melted chocolate. What I particularly like is that this is made from leftovers which would be wasted in some other bakeries—here it is turned into one of the most delicious things on the stall.