Well known to viewers of BBC2’s Big Bread Experiment series, Patrick Ryan is a thoughtful high achiever and this talented lawyer-turned-chef-and-baker was just the man to bring an imaginative and highly appropriate business venture to the quiet little island in Roaring Water Bay that his partner Laura Moore’s family call home.
Not that Heir Island is a stranger to good food, of course - the celebrated chef John Desmond and his partner Ellmary Fenton have been wowing visitors’ taste buds for many a year at the amazing Island Cottage (see entry) nearby.
But this was different, arriving with a huge surge of energy and a very timely idea that spread like wildfire to bring a wave of would-be bakers to the island, to enjoy the adventure of it all - anticipate the ferry trip, wonder at the magic of the wood fired clay oven, taste, learn, buy, take home...
Unrushed handmade baking is the central focus of all that goes on here, using local ingredients and no fast action yeast or any other additives - producing, as they say, ‘real bread, the healthier tastier alternative’. Crusty sourdough is the wild salmon of the baking world and very much with the zeitgeist, so many students would travel just to learn its secrets - but there’s plenty more too, with a wide ranging repertoire on offer, covering everything from traditional soda breads to classic baguettes and crispy pizza.
If you’re visiting the island you can call by to buy bread, or maybe have one of their stone baked pizzas, but the hugely successful one-day courses (which include a ‘parent & child’ one) need to be booked well ahead - a glance at the schedule on their website will show how far ahead they get booked out.
And no wonder, going to learn about bread making on an island is a magical idea, especially when you know you’ll be heading back on the ferry with a goodie bag and as much bread as you can carry.
And the good news for real bread enthusiasts who can’t make it to Heir Island is that, follwoing their success in West Cork, Patrick and Laura then teamed up with other entrepreneurs including food markets guru Jackie Spillane to bring The Firehouse to Delgany, Co Wicklow - where the old Delgany Inn is now home to a two-storey combo of bakery, café, restaurant and grocers.
*Together with Duncan Glendinning, joint founder of the eco-artisan bakery The Thoughtful Bread Company, Patrick Ryan is the author of Bread Revolution - Rise Up & Bake! (Murdoch Books, 2012. £17.99).