Written by Daniel James Parry
Artisan Foodworks is located on the ever-growing modern Merlin Park within Burscough Industrial Estate, tastefully sandwiching the offices of Pangea Sculptures, a previous Foxley client. With the café on one side, and Artisan Foodworks’ bakery on the other, we ascended the stairs of the café with director David Peeks, settling into a trio of deep green armchairs in the corner to discuss the bread and the business. After a long drive from our offices in Buckshaw Village, it was nice to relax and take a loaf off.
Before getting a taste of the artisan nature of the business and how David earns his crust, I was straight away welcomed by the cosy and homely feel of the café. As I sipped on a flavoursome, foam filled macciato, David explained a little more about the decor, citing that much of the furniture was bought from a church reclaimers. Simple tables and chairs were dotted around the floor, placed artfully over a rustic, chequered rug. A vinyl record player was situated by us, with an array of vinyls suited to all tastes. Remaining traditional in its aesthetic, the menu was scribed on a large board on the wall, with the lunchtime specials stylised in the ways of a parchment scroll, reminiscent of an Shakespearean manner, when news would be read from a scroll, delivered freshly by a messenger. As we crossed the room, I couldn’t help but notice a tea cosy sat protectively over a teapot, to ensure that the tea preserved inside remains warm and toasty. It’s little slices of home which make Artisan Foodworks such a delightful café to enjoy your lunch.
David gave me a grand tour of the Artisan Foodworks bakery, which carried a rich nostalgic and flavoursome smell, similar to the way your grandmother’s kitchen as a child would smell as she baked through your pending arrival. The ovens in the bakery were stone decked, returning to traditional methods, something which David and his team strive to replicate. These allow bakers to bake bread straight onto the stone deck, often known as ‘Artisan ovens’. David added that they make great pizza ovens, and demonstrated how he uses a peel to get the bread (and pizza, apparently) in and out.
THE FOXLEY DOCKET: Introduce yourself and give us a little bit about what you do
DAVID PEEKS: I’m the Director of Artisan Foodworks, it’s an artisan product based on slow fermentation breads, cakes without processing aids, pies from farm assured meats, so everything is of a high quality standard – there’s no unnecessary processing aids in anything unlike your supermarket products and it’s all local food brands – we try and use local suppliers wherever we can. (David made a point of showing us a variety of local brands dressing the shelves of Artisan Foodworks, including Choc Amor from Tarleton and Ringtail Ale, made on a hop vine in Burscough. He also added that the brand source local honey from their own beehives.)
TFD: As a third generation business with over 60 years of experience; how did the brand begin?
DP: We have 60 years combined experience. We started the business on here about 4 or 5 years ago. We’d climbed up the greasy pole of senior management, so we decided to jump off and do our own thing
TFD: In light of this, what does the brand, and food mean to you?
DP: The brand is about quality; we’re always trying to find a way to improve; improving these standards, and hopefully giving our customers a choice between the bog standard and something a little bit different. Food is about keeping food as it should be, and not victimizing it and messing around with it so it’s a product that pretends to be what it says on the packet, rather than really being what it says on the packet.
TFD: You say you use the very best ingredients – where are these sourced from?
DP: We get vegetables from a supplier in Southport and a lot of that is grown on the moss in and around Scarisbrick, meats come from Upholland. Obviously there are certain things we can’t source here like lemons or anything like that but we try our very best to use local suppliers wherever we can.
TFD: You offer a number of bread making classes – when did this start and how was the idea conceived?
DP: It started around about 4 years ago; there was a change in expectation of bread from the general public – they were becoming very aware that mass produced factory produced bread may not be as good as it should be, so we also have people that want to make their own bread and it’s a skill that’s been lost, so we show people how to make what we call ‘real bread’ as part of the Real Bread campaign, and that is using slow fermentation techniques, giving it consistency to the product that they make so that they go away happy because they’ve made consistently good bread, rather than having varying degrees of success. (Bread making classes at Artisan Foodworks are an all day occasion, with prices starting at £95. Classes have just 10 places available, allowing David to focus on the learning and enjoyment of attendees, and ensures a more personal and memorable hands on approach. During classes, refreshments are available upstairs, while classes take place in the bakery itself, with ovens for baking the bread through the back. By offering this, David aims to give customers a usable skill they can take away with them.)
TFD: How are these received by customers?
DP: Literally every class is sold out.
TFD: Why should people visit Artisan Foodworks?
DP: Because it’s a different experience – it’s food that’s made on site, and has very low food miles – that makes it stand out – the USP also is that we use slow fermentation bread for all sandwiches so there’s no mass produced bread. You’re actually getting something that’s a substantial change.
TFD: You’ve been recognised favourably by The Daily Telegraph as one of the top 20 Lancashire brands – can you tell us about this? How has it helped Artisan Foodworks as a business?
DP: It’s been helpful; we’ve had a lot of new people that’ve come in, which is good – they seem to like it, and they’ve come back, which is what we want. What they’re doing, I think, is trying to show the public again the importance of the choice of having artisan bread, rather than just mass produced bread, because all this is about is a choice. Previously, there was no choice and now there is a choice.
TFD: What’s for the future of Artisan Foodworks?
DP: We’re developing this concept, which is Merlin’s Bakery Café – we’re going to extend this further out – physically – because it’s over capacity at the moment, we’re struggling to keep up with the business and so we have plans to extend this, and hopefully just bring the two businesses closer together.
Find out more about Artisan Food Works at: