Early on in life Andrew knew he wanted to be a chef. When he was young he was always pottering in the kitchen making cakes, biscuits, and slices. His mother was very encouraging and could see his passion for cooking blossoming. Fast forward to sixth form, Andrew leaves school to pursue an apprenticeship at AUT while working at various restaurants around Auckland. It wasn’t long before London came calling and Andrew set out on his overseas experience at 21.
Landing a job at Le Pont De La Tour near Tower Bridge, Andrew began working at the biggest kitchen he’d ever worked in along with very fast paced and long hours. He worked at this restaurant for a few years, moving about different areas of the kitchen gaining new skills and experience. An opportunity arose for Andrew to spend some time in the in-house bakery, where he thought he would only be for 6 months. That was 25 years ago. He never made it back to a restaurant kitchen after that.
Returning home after six years abroad, Andrew landed a job at Pandoro where he spent three years baking and cooking. The itch to start something on his own became too much to ignore, a dream of Andrew’s in the early years. Come October 1999, Wild Wheat was born. Initially starting with wholesale pastry and breads, the first 12 months were a struggle as Andrew had truly thrown himself in the deep end with figuring out how to run a business.
Dabbling in a new style of sourdough, with little to know experience in this style of bread, Andrew really wanted to head in the direction of naturally leavened sourdough and perfect the process. Striking it lucky with getting noticed by a couple of foodies, Wild Wheat started making a name for themselves with bespoke sourdough. Getting a handle on things over the next few years, it wasn’t until a win for Best Hot Cross Buns and a TV stint on Breakfast that things really took off for Wild Wheat. Opening up a store in Mt Eden became the ‘face’ of Wild Wheat and a move to a bigger bakery facility in Pakuranga gave Andrew the opportunity to expand organically with better equipment.
While at Pakuranga, Andrew became intently focused on sourdoughs and the health benefits. Experimenting using ingredients with a significant nutritional twist and focusing on better health outcomes, Andrew focused on seeking out healthy ingredients and make breads that ticked different health boxes. That focus continues to this day with even more intensity.
Calling Ascot Road, near the airport, home for the past couple of years now, there are endless exciting ideas in the pipeline for Wild Wheat. Food waste is top of the list, the reduction of it and ultimately not having any more waste at all. It is about doing what is ethically right while making sure it tastes great and is good for you, an area Andrew is extremely passionate about.
After 35 years in the industry, Andrew still loves what he does and feels a real sense of achievement when sending out thousands of loaves of great bread for customers to enjoy. “To me it means that Wild Wheat, and all the hard work leading up to this one moment, has been worth it.”