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Tomo a bread winner

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Tomo a bread winner

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At Christmas time, one person’s services in great demand is that of the baker.
From sweetbread, pudding, fancy cakes, great cake and other culinary delights, the power of flour rises as Bajans rush to ensure their Christmas tables and palates are filled with the sweet stuff for the season.
One small businessman who says the demand for his “dough” is doubled in the Yuletide season is Randolph “Tomo” Thomas; whether it be coconut bread, plain cake, black cake, fruit cake, pudding, cassava and corn pone, or great cake.
Though he bakes at his Lower Burney, St Michael home, he sells his products in the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs’ market in Cheapside, The City, on weekends. For Christmas, he was out during the week.
“During the year, I don’t make great cakes [as the demand for them only skyrockets during the Christmas season], but the bread and puddings are year-round, but not as big [in demand] as this. This time [Christmas] pays for the times when I don’t do as well,” he said.
But well he does, adding that people often lined up waiting for him on weekends.
Thomas, a Vincentian by birth, did not begin his culinary career as a baker. He told the SUNDAY SUN he started at the prestigious Barbados Hilton – the first one.
“I was a chef at the original Barbados Hilton for 22 years. I started as an assistant cook and when the hotel closed, I was a chef de partie,” he said.
He then decided to strike out on his own and opened the popular RT’s in Eagle Hall, a restaurant which seated up to 30 patrons.
“I did fairly well there for five years, but after Warrens opened, I started to lose customers so I decided to shut it down. Soon I branched off into this [baking].”
Sitting in a house full of sweet-smelling cakes and bread, the unassuming 67-year-old calmly and quietly explained how he got into the baking business.
“My wife encouraged me to do it, so we decided to go into baking in 2005. We used the money from the Hilton to get started and bought a small mixer and an oven and over a period of time, purchased more equipment,” he said.
Thomas said his dream was to see his little home operation grow into a larger enterprise to the point where he could no longer work at home but operate from his own bakery.
Recent times have been especially difficult for Thomas, as ingredients and packaging are more expensive than ever, causing him to add “a li’l 25 cents here and there”.
“I have to be particular about my packaging because the market is open and my stock has to be properly sealed. Between covers, wraps and bags as well as butter and other ingredients, it is very expensive.”
Despite the hardships, Thomas said he was thankful – especially at this Christmas time – for another year of business.
“I want to thank my customers because without them I couldn’t be [working], so thanks to them for appreciating my product and patronising my business,” he said, as he put another pan of sweetbread into the oven. (CA)