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Image / Agenda / Business

My Career: Baker Eoin Cluskey


By Eoin Cluskey
15th Jan 2023
My Career: Baker Eoin Cluskey

Eoin Cluskey is the founder and owner of Bread 41, a specialist bakery and fermented food specialist eatery on Pearse Street with some of the best pastries around. Here Eoin takes us through a day in the life of a baker – which most often starts at 5am daily.

Did you always want to be a baker?
I got into the industry late in life, but I guess you could say it was always in my blood, my nana was a baker.

In college, I studied… I didn’t go to college. When I left school, I became a carpenter because you could earn loads of money doing it, but after eight years of working and travelling the world, I realised something was missing, something important. The thing that was missing was food. I returned to Ireland in 2010 and took a deep dive into making a career change as a baker when I was 30 years old. I spent a wonderful 18 months at Ballymaloe Cookery School, immersed on an organic farm where I learnt from the very best, Darina Allen.

My most formative work experience was… working in many bakeries in San Fransisco, notably Tartine and Craftsman and Wolves.

My first real job was… being a duty cleaner. I mopped the floors of a supermarket chain.

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… if it’s not right in the gut, it’s not right.

A common misconception about what I do is… there’s a misconception that you can’t earn money in the food industry, but it’s hard to earn money in any business. I did a Scale X course run by a business development company Simple Scaling over the last 18 months with 10 other business founders and CEOs. Some guys were involved in tech and one guy makes the tarps that go on the sides of trucks, but it didn’t matter what their business was or how much it was worth – we all had the same problems. That’s what people forget: business is business.

My main responsibility in work is to… be present and help all my team members achieve their goals.

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
I’ve always looked up to my business partner and I am so fortunate to have him, he’s more of a brother than a business partner. I am also very inspired by Jamie Oliver and Douglas McMaster, owner of Zero waste restaurant Silo.

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… when I opened Bread 41 on Pearse Street, people laughed at me and told me I was crazy. There were derelict buildings all around me – the Trinity Business School that is there now wasn’t there at the time – but I just focused on making really good bread and putting together a good group of people. I knew it would be a case of if you build it, they will come.

I wake at… 5am daily.

The first thing I do every morning is… drink a big glass of water.

My morning routine is… I wake at 5am and jump straight in the shower. I have a big glass of water before I leave the house and then I head into work. When I arrive at work, I make morning coffees for everyone and catch up with the bakers and pastry chefs.

I can’t go to work without… keys to the front door.

I travel to work by… car on busy days or sometimes I take the dart.

On an average workday I… check in with the team first thing in the morning. I then usually hop on a call with my business partner as we are constantly looking to grow the business and always working on 90-day objectives and key results. If I’m not offsite speaking at an event, usually we have visitors or more business calls and meetings to attend to.

I break for lunch at… around 12:30pm. I either grab whatever Dave has made for staff lunches or pay a visit to Honey truffle or Tiller and Grain.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… Microsoft Outlook.

I save time by… planning out my day using my Microsoft calendar.

I rarely get through my working day without… eating a pastry.

The best part of my day is… 6am. The city is still asleep, and I arrive at work before we open. I’ll have my cup of coffee, and it just feels like an oasis before we open.

The most challenging part of my day is… balancing meetings, talks, visitors – every day is different, and it can be busy with so many different things happening!

I know it’s been a good day if… I’ve worked on the vision and my staff members are going home happy.

I usually end my day at… 2/3pm and I always finish my day the second the key goes in the door. Work stays at work.

I switch off from work by… reading, Jiujitsu, baking with the kids, downtime with my family.

Before I go to bed, I… read a few pages of a book. I wasn’t always a reader, in fact- I was a terrible reader, I suffered poorly from dyslexia. However, I am a true believer that if you work very hard at something you can get results. About two years ago I started reading again and it would take me a really long time to read a page but now I read 2-3 books a month. Myself and my business partner are going to Japan in February, and we got given a reading list of six books in a month – so it will definitely be a challenge but one I look forward to!

I often prepare for tomorrow by… looking over my calendar and making sure my day is organised.

After a long work week, I destress by… going to open East Coast Jiujitsu and spending time with my family.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… first and foremost, my beautiful family. In work, I am most proud of building a value-based business in the food industry. In the future, people won’t be coming to your restaurant or your kitchen and only asking how much you pay – they’ll be asking what values you have and why they should work there. People will want to work with you because of what you’re doing and what you stand for. When I started Bread 41, I got all the members of staff in a room, took out a whiteboard and said, ‘I want to know why you want to work here, what our values are and what we stand for.’ Whenever I tell this story no one thinks anything of it, but what they don’t realise is that these people had never, ever been asked to sit down in a room to hear what they had to say. And this is what they said: first and foremost, at Bread 41 we care for each other. We also care for our customers, for everything we make, for our community and for our suppliers and we care about sustainability. I’ve worked in accordance with those values since the start. I always have and I always will.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… get into a good kitchen or bakery and have someone mentor you. I spent years doing stages and trying to learn from people. Niall O’Sullivan is and has always been a strong mentor of mine.

I’ve just finished working on… I’ve just finished working on our B-Corp certification (a private certification of for-profit companies of their social and environmental performance). I am super proud of this and very grateful for my team who got this over the line. This was a rigorous evaluation in many areas of our business and it means we will be legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment. At the moment, I’m working on the opening of our second location in Greystones. We received approval for our planning recently so it’s all go, but something I am very excited about.

Photography: Bread 41