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Urmston lockdown baker crowned North West’s Bread Hero

On maternity leave during lockdown, Irina baked with her new baby strapped to her back - now she's baking full time and looking to expand

Irina Ruseva of Flour & Soul Bakery in Urmston has been crowned the North West’s Bread Hero by the Tiptree World Bread Awards.

In addition, she has received the Zeelandia Award for Sustainability.

Irina, who went into lockdown on maternity leave from her project manager role, set up her own micro bakery during the pandemic.

Always a keen baker, after learning as a child from her grandfather in Bulgaria, Irina took lockdown as an opportunity to get back into sourdough

After making a few surplus loaves, Irina posted them on Facebook to see if anybody wanted them.

They sold within minutes and requests poured in.

Still on maternity leave, in order to keep up with demand, Irina baked with her new baby strapped to her back and her three year old playing with flour.

Bike deliveries of the bread involved the children too; bringing them along in the family bike trailer.

Since then, Irina has scaled up her baking to provide fresh bread, every week, to the 80-plus households that subscribe to her Flour & Soul Bread Club.

Irina is very conscious of her bakery being local and sustainable.

She uses flour from a mill in Cheshire, only delivers in the M41 area and ensures all her bread is delivered by bike. 

This is done with the help of the volunteer group Urmston Bike Deliveries, who offer a low-cost bike delivery service to local businesses.

It is in recognition of these efforts that the judges awarded Irina the additional accolade of the Zeelandia Award for Sustainability. 

“We are thrilled to present Irina with the Zeelandia Award for Sustainability,” says Richard Hazeldine, national sales manager, Zeelandia.

“Real progress on making the world a better place and tackling climate change requires a shared commitment – from all parties, bakers, customers and suppliers – to do things better throughout the supply chain.

“Even small steps (or turns of the wheel) help.”

With both children now back at nursery, Irina is baking full time and looking to expand her bakery.

In normal times, the Tiptree World Bread Awards celebrate the bread; loaves from around the country would be delivered for assessment by a panel of esteemed judges.

Building on the great success of last year, the Awards once again celebrated the UK’s Bread Heroes – the people behind the loaves: from farmers and millers, to bakers and educators. 

Hundreds of nominations were sent in from across the UK. 

“All the nominees in this year’s Awards truly deserve recognition for their generous, considerate and often altruistic initiatives to help others.” said Stephen Hallam, chairman of the judges. 

13 regional winners were selected by the judging panel.

In addition to the regional winners, there were a selection of special awards: Brook Food Dream Team Award, KitchenAid Home Baker Hero, Shipton Mill Real Bread Hero, Tiptree Outstanding Achievement Award, Wright’s Flour Award for Innovation, Zeelandia Award for Sustainability.

“It has been another strange year and it is so lovely to read stories of the bread heroes who have carried on, diversified, given back and risen to the challenge (pun intended!),” said one of the judges, Britt Box, She Who Bakes.

“They are all an absolute credit to their communities.”

An exhibition of portraits by photographer Henry Kenyon of the Bread Heroes will be touring the UK.

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