Hard to believe but it’s been a year since Good Souls Bakery started kneading dough, stirring soups and cutting cakes at The Waiting Room. Yes, we first opened up on 2nd April 2015. What an wonderful 12 months in an incredible space.
The Waiting Room attracts some of the loveliest people, staff, customers and those who use it to cook and create. I am always in awe of the creativity that takes place in this renovated bus station. The Waiting Room is most vibrant in the day time when the café runs alongside an activity, whether it’s Gunpowder Gertie’s yoga for the young ones, Sally and her All In The Making crew – weaving, spinning, sewing, Tom’s screen printing, Caroline teaching ceramics, Paul’s letterpress. The other chefs are always inspirational and for a food lover, it’s such a thrill to try their dishes. Not only am I well fed, but also the recipient of culinary inspiration and motivation. Swapping ingredients and recipes is another bonus! Collaborations happen and there is great support for everyone’s endeavours. The monthly Bazaar brings together the food producers, artists, hackers, makers, menders and shakers into The Waiting Room to sell and help the good folk of Colchester and it is a thrill to be a part of that event.
It’s not just creativity and food that draw people to The Waiting Room, but also the wonderful warmth of those who work here. I feel I have made so many true friends from those who I have had the pleasure of working alongside, of course, the other chefs, and in the bar: Poppy, Tristan, Jenny, Annabel, Gabriela and those who have loyally helped me serve, plate, create, dish up and wash up – Marnie, Beth and Aileen. Brett does a sterling job of sprucing the space up, Sam’s sound checks deliver some much needed energy, when I’m clearing up at the end of a Saturday shift. Michelle promotes all that is going on at The Waiting Room, to ensure that Colchester folk don't miss out. Mike, who manages the bar, is the man in the know about some pretty unusual cocktails and the exact science of pulling a pint.
Of course, huge, huge thanks also have to go to Marc De’Ath, the man who keeps the Waiting Room working and ticking over at great expense to his own time and, possibly, sanity. He is the king pin, the one who holds it all together and I’m very grateful for him for allowing me to bring Good Souls Bakery to the Waiting Room and let me work to find the best way to enable Good Souls to fit into the space and find the food that suits our customers.
Talking of our lovely customers, I don’t think anyone could ask for more supportive people than those who frequent The Waiting Room. We have held charity meal nights for Nepal and Project Trust and the local support has been heart warming. Receiving positive feedback and constructive criticism is always a thrill and extremely beneficial in helping the business to grow but more pleasing is when a customer returns time after time or if I ask someone how they heard of Good Souls Bakery at The Waiting Room and their response is that their friend enjoyed their food and recommended it.
I have learnt so much in the past year. Invaluable skills in how to cook for hungry crowds, to create interesting and globally inspired menus for vegetarians, vegans and those who want a gluten free diet. I still have much to learn but I now know that home made granola served with Good Souls fig and honey compote is a popular breakfast choice. I have discovered that soup and freshly baked bread rolls are lunchtime winners, simply but homely and hearty. I know that carnivores actually love vegan wieners, especially if they are served in a freshly baked crusty roll and topped with slow cooked, caramelised onions. I sometimes fear that as I don’t have formal culinary training I will be exposed as a home cook who has got above her station, but actually it seems people appreciate home cooking if it includes good, seasonal ingredients and the globally inspired elements of Good Souls Bakery adds, I hope, some variety and novelty. Who would have thought rugelach would have proved such a winner with the pastry lovers of North Essex? Or that the most popular soup would be chipotle black bean soup, hints of Mexico with the heat supplied by Will, local Chilli grower and provider.
If you have enjoyed a soup, bread or a cake, any manner of bake at Good Souls at The Waiting Room do feel free to ask if you would like to see it on the menu again. Thanks to everyone at The Waiting Room and everyone who has visited for their warmth and support and making this first year such an enjoyable one.