“LITHUANIANS BUY HONEY CAKES AND RUSSIANS BUY BORODINSKY BREAD. IT IS REALLY NICE PROVIDING THOSE CONNECTIONS”
Interview: Viel Richardson
1. Growing up in Lithuania, my food experience started very early. My mother is a chef and my grandmother was a baker, so I was always around people with real expertise. My grandmother specialised in cakes and she taught me how to make different types, like the famous sakotis which some people call the ‘tree cake’.
2. I have known Karaway Bakery since about 2014, when I joined part time. I started working here full time in about 2017. One of the things I like most about working here is the atmosphere.I am a chatty person and really like the relationships you develop with the customers working here. I love answering customers questions about our products, seeing their smiles as they try new things. I also have amazing colleagues – we are like a little family here and I always try to create a fun environment.
3. Karaway is a Russian fusion bakery selling Russian and Lithuanian breads, cakes and pastries. We are really focused on introducing rye bread to our customers and showing them that rye products are tasty, filling and healthy. There is such a variety of flavours and textures available.
4. Lithuania has a shared history with Russia, going back many generations. This means there is quite a large heritage of shared recipes and ingredients, with the different dishes often complementing each other. There are unique Russian and Lithuanian breads which are very different in texture and flavour, but you can see they have a shared history. In the bakery there are bakers from both countries who know the products intimately.
5. My favourite time to work at the Market is Christmas. I love the decorations and even though it is cold, there is a really nice feeling among both the customers and the other traders. That sense of a festival and people getting ready to see family and friends is really lovely. People are more adventurous at this time and it is also nice to feel that by helping customers choose food for their tables, you are part of their celebrations.
6. We often get Lithuanians and Russians coming to the stall to buy things they know. The Lithuanians buy things like honey cakes and the Russians things like borodinsky bread. It is really nice knowing that you are providing those connections and bringing back happy memories of mealtimes with families. It is also great to talk with people from different parts of my home country in my mother tongue. I can also speak some Russian which is helpful, because sometimes the older generation from these countries can struggle with English and you can see they appreciate people talking to them in a language they understand. But we also have a lot of British customers, so there is a real mix.
7. We have a bread called super rye which is an interesting shape, like a short pillar. It has quite a hard crust, but it is very moist inside and has a lovely complex taste. It is made with wholegrain flour, without yeast, wheat or sugar. Last year it won two stars at the Great Taste awards. It is something a little different to what many of our customers are used to, but it is getting increasingly popular as more people try it.
8. Egle is the area manager for Karaway and we work closely together. I talk to her at least once every day but often more. She is a very positive, passionate and hard-working person. Egle is based in the office but comes out to the stall most weeks to see how things are, feel the environment and see the customers. Those of us on the stall also go to the bakery to see how the bread is made and meet the bakers, which is great. It is also important, as there is a different process for every single bread and we need to know each of them. It also means we get to try everything.
9. I really love the pure rye sourdough, it is the kind of bread that I grew up with. I will always have some at home. If I want something sweet, it will be the honey cake or one of our Baltic doughnuts with mixed cream cheese inside.
10. We have lots of regular customers and it is lovely when someone comes to the stall and we already know what they want. I think it makes them feel a bit more valued—that there is a relationship there. I can also suggest different things for them. It might be that they are having something like smoked salmon or a kind of cheese and want to know what to have with it—I have tried everything and so can suggest what foods to have with the different breads we sell. It is nice that customers trust my judgement.