I’ve just spent a week in East Timor with two of my best mates. It was our third trip to Timor. Three years ago I was asked if I could help the Timorese set up a bakery. I then asked Ralph Plarre from Melbourne and Graham Heaven from New Zealand if they would be interested too. Luckily for me they said yes.
Ralph has about 52 shops around the Melbourne area. It’s a big business, but these days his two boys run the show. Ralph is a gentleman and a great friend.
Graham is the top bakery trainer in New Zealand. He also had a very successful bakery, in Napier, but his son Jason now runs it. Graham has his own training school in Napier, plus he does training all over New Zealand. He has helped bakers in England and just this January was in Texas helping a company.
Well, on the first trip we did not achieve a lot. We met a lot of people who could talk, but that was about all they could do. But one lady took us to a convent where there was all this bakery equipment still in crates. Graham got excited.
We didn’t get back for another year, in January 2011. The nuns had employed an Indonesian baker who was a great tradesman, but the nuns wanted Aussie-style bread. So last January we gave them our bread recipe and showed them how to use the roll machine.
When we get there this year, we were blown away by how far they had progressed. They were doing about 2000 rolls a day, plus some crusty breads. And quite a few cakes. The nuns had been selling the bread from the bakehouse, but they opened a shop out in front of the convent on a busy road. Only open in December, and the shop is a real succes.
This year we showed them how to make Lamingtons, rock cakes, savoury scones and muffins and other variations of bread. They are so keen to learn. We will visit again but take our wives with us. They can help out in the shop and in the bakery.
We’ve made a real difference in a country that needs all the help they can get. And travelling with my two mates made the trip really enjoyable.