Baking the World a Better Place One Loaf at a Time
When Marta Dobrowolska-Mendak and her husband came from Poland to New Zealand in 2014 on a two-year working visa, they were here to explore the country and have a change of scenery. Basing themselves in Auckland, Marta soon found work in her familiar profession of recruitment. But what started as a two-year adventure has now merged into eight years and counting. They discovered and fell in love with the laid-back pace of Northland five years ago and life now includes their three young children, their endearing little Beagle Wena (who flew over separately from Poland), a stunning family home overlooking Ruakaka Beach, and a blossoming artisan bakery business.
With a master’s degree in psychology, a degree in Spanish History and Literature, her own successful recruitment business in Poland, and several half marathons under her belt, a bread business wasn’t ever really part of her plans. But Marta says bread is such an important part of their lives in her home country, “it’s eaten with every meal, and it was one thing we did miss in our new life here”.
“I started baking sourdough loaves at home and would always have some on hand if friends are visiting” Marta recounts. “People really seemed to love it”. It was around 2018 that Marta and her husband started talking about the idea of setting up a commercial kitchen space in part of their garage and in 2021 Pinenut Bakery began. “I initially thought I would sell at farmers markets around the region, but when I enquired, they already had bakers on board” says Marta. So, she set about creating her own website and offering local delivery instead.
Word soon spread and regular deliveries began to increase. Marta also started supplying local Waipū café Logan MacLean, and their customers would often ask where the bread came from. They now regularly sell out of baskets full of Pinenut Bakery bread. One customer, Craig Estick, now Head Chef at the recently opened Aqua Restaurant & Bar based in the new Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangārei, knew he wanted this delicious local artisan product on the restaurant’s menu, and it’s proudly been part of their offering since opening.
Also through Logan McLean, Marta met award-winning artisan cheese maker Jennifer Rodrigue of Belle Chevre Creamery. Jennifer had come together with a group of similar local business owners and started their very own Roving Rural Markets. As the name suggests, these boutique markets are held once a month in a different location each time around Waipū, bringing fresh produce and hand-crafted food and beverage to local food lovers. “It’s more than a monthly market for us” explains Marta, “there’s a real feeling of closeness and community amongst the stall holders, we support each other in many ways, and we’ve all become good friends which is really wonderful”.
Although very different to her previous fast-paced profession, Marta has become passionate about the quiet art and science of creating the perfect loaf. There has been plenty of experimentation, “I’ve learned that achieving a consistently good bake takes time, attention, and a real care throughout the whole process”. She has discovered it’s best to bake at night which suits her, when the kids are settled, the magic happens. “I love the feedback I get from my customers, it’s always positive so it brings a lot of joy.”
The silent hero of her business is her sourdough starter, now three years old, Marta admits that it’s a daily consideration and even comes on holiday with them to make sure it gets fed, just like one of her children. The legendary crusty organic sourdough loaves are staples of the range, but she also offers some other European-style loaves, including a soft braided Challah, an indulgent buttery sweet flavoured Babka, French baguettes and sourdough pretzels. The popularity means a considered expansion is on the horizon but will not be at the sacrifice of the quality her loyal customers know and love. So, if you yearn for a truly great bake, put Pinenut Bakery on your must-try list. You won’t be disappointed.