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NAIT Grad Turns Quarantine Baking Into Career

By Karlie Mickanuik

Learning to bake sourdough was just one of the weird things people did during quarantine season. Patrick Cunningham was one of them. The only difference is now he has an entire business surrounding baking bread and is taking the local market scene by storm.

Paddy Bakes is Cunningham’s family baking company where Cunnigham and his wife prepare and bake approximately 90 loaves of bread every week during the busy market season. When the pandemic first began and Edmonton went into lockdown Cunningham, who was a member for NAITSA’s Campus Activity Board, began making sourdough as a hobby. He never expected to see his endeavours grow as much as they did.

“So I started it and my neighbour said ‘hey I’ll buy a loaf cause you know the market in the stripmall in our neighbourhood, I don’t like the bread’ so I said ‘okay I’ll sell you a loaf,’ and then pretty soon it was two neighbours, and then three neighours,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham posted on his Instagram account that he was selling sourdough bread and the response skyrocketed from there. A manager of the 124 Grand Market in Edmonton, who is a friend of Cunningham, reached out to him to start selling his bread at the market.

“She messaged me and she said if you can rent a commercial kitchen and get the permits and stuff then we have a spot for you at the market. You know, that would be cool. What else am I doing right now? My summer job fell through and so did my wifes and you know prospects for any kind of work were looking kinda shaky so why not just go for it,” said Cunningham.

The couple works six days a week to bake enough bread for their customers and baking sourdough for Paddy Bakes is a three day process. One day to make the pre-ferment needed to make sourdough, a day for mixing the dough that needs to sit over night and the third day is reserved all for baking. Each loaf of bread is baked in the morning before the market.

Baking isn’t what Cunningham has always been called to do.

“Before I started this I was actually quite focused on music even though I had gone to baking school. I decided I didn’t want to do baking because I didn’t like the environment of a bakery, so I focused on music for a while,” said Cunningham.

The age-old tradition of baking bread is what brought Cunningham back to his baking roots.

“There’s something really cool about baking bread, especially sourdough. It’s such an old technique, like thousands and thousands of years old and it just works so well and people love it so much,” said Cunningham.

Paddy Bakes began selling at markets in the beginning of August and will be at the 124 Grand Market on Sundays and Thursdays until October 8. You can also order bread through their Instagram and Facebook @paddybakesbread by DM’ing them.

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