Joe Fitzmaurice is a man who’s passionate about his work. He and his wife Julie Lockett run Riot Rye Bakery in Cloughjordan, Co. Limerick, where they are trying to bring about a revolution in food.
Joe’s parents founded one of the first wholefood centres in Ireland in the 1970s. They also raised their children on a wholefood macrobiotic diet.
Bread was an important food for the family and it forms some of Joe’s earliest food-based memories. “My mother fermented sourdough starters and milled her own grains,” he remembers. “There was always bread rising in our house and she’d often tear off a piece of dough for us to shape and bake too.”
Joe didn’t go into the food business originally. He worked in the oil and gas industry for a while and then in theatre design in the UK.
Meanwhile, his sisters Lorraine and Pamela setup wholefood vegetarian businesses Blazing Salads II and Blazing Salads Food Company in Dublin. “I came home to help during the summer holidays and never went back,” says Joe.
Instead, he started baking bread for the delis, eventually becoming the businesses’ head baker. He achieved all of this without any formal training. Everything he has learned has been from books and from those around him. It’s all led to him believing wholeheartedly in the need for natural fermentation, wholegrains and sourdough starters to produce nourishing bread.
“Bread consists of fermented grains and until 150 years ago, all bread was sourdough bread,” he says. “I saw the destructive side of working against nature when I worked in oil and gas. Now, I work with nature in getting as much nutrition from food as possible. That’s why I use organic flours and natural ingredients and it’s why I make bread without industrial additives or chemicals.”
This philosophy is also what drew Joe and Julie to the countryside and Cloughjordan Eco Village. There they built a wood-fired bakery that has been up and running for the past five years.
Their bread now supplies the village of Cloughjordan as well as shops and restaurants in the nearby towns of Roscrea, Nenagh and Limerick. Since 2014, Joe and Julie have also introduced an educational strand to their bakery business.
“The simple knowledge of how to transform grain into a loaf of bread is lost to lots of people,” says Joe. “We want to bring that back.”
This is what Joe is trying to do through his participation in the Common Loaf and Real Bread campaigns and by running popular bread-making classes at the bakery.
Joe believes this growing interest in bread-making comes from a more educated population. “People know that real bread is a proper food that is easily digested,” he says. “They know there’s a big difference between commercial white bread and the organic, wholegrain, fermented plant-based food that is sourdough bread. That’s what’s sustained us for 6,000 years and it’ll sustain us for many more years to come.”
An increasing number of chefs are signing up for Joe’s classes, which indicates to him that the wider food industry is realising the need for nutritious bread. He’d like to see the situation develop to the point where every village and town in Ireland has its own bakery and where everyone is capable of making bread at home.
“I’d love to see bread-making taught in schools,” he says. “I’d love to see real bread in more places. People are interested in it and I’d like to play a part in helping them to learn.”
[quote_box_center]To find out more about Riot Rye, visit their website.[/quote_box_center]