How Tami Isaacs Pearce discovered the Karma of baking

Tami Isaacs Pearce at Karma Bread Bakehouse South End Green. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tami Isaacs Pearce at Karma Bread Bakehouse South End Green. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Tami Isaacs Pearce from Karma Bread Bakehouse in South End Green talks about setting up her bakery and becoming part of the Hampstead community

Tami Isaacs Pearce’s first loaf didn’t really work.

“I was only working with a kilo or so of flour and I think I used 12 eggs. It was so smelly,” she says. “No idea what I was doing.”

But now, as she hands around pieces of her chocolate and cardamom challah in Karma Bread Bakehouse in South End Green, you’d never have guessed.

“Whenever I’m test baking something I bring it out of the oven, break it up, get my customers to taste it and tell me what it needs. I think if you have such a close relationship with your customers then you really honour what they say.”

Tami started baking out of her home kitchen when she discovered her love for dough and creating a “life force out of pretty much nothing”. Soon she was baking hundreds of loaves a day, using her neighbours ovens and supplying to places like Panzer’s in St John’s Wood and La Fromagerie in Marylebone.

“It was a complete life change where everything in your life, all the strands seem to come together at the right time in the right place and something is born out of it. So for me that’s why it’s called Karma.”

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As calm and karmic as she may appear now, opening a bakery in the centre of Hampstead was no easy task and, even with the support of her family – some of the recipes are inspired by her father and her sister runs front of house – she had her doubts.

“The night before we opened I slept here and the thing that controls the temperature of the sourdough was completely failing. All the bread was a mess, the challah was a nightmare. My recipes from home didn’t upscale to large quantities properly.

“I left here at 6:30am thinking ‘what the hell have I done?’ There was this man coming down the road in his pinstriped pyjamas and walking stick. He asked me what the matter was, and he said to me ‘open the doors and they will come’.

“He was amazing. His name was Roger. He was having treatment for cancer in the hospital. He couldn’t eat but he used to come and sit outside.”

Being around the corner from the Royal Free, Karma Bread has become a refuge for patients and visitors looking for an escape from the hospital environment.

“We get all of our regulars, sometimes they come in three times a day,” says Tami. “There’s a good energy in here. This becomes a comfortable place for them to be. We can see people through diagnosis, to treatment, when they’re in remission. So I really feel like we’re part of the community.”

Karma Bread Bakehouse is open throughout the week, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and coffee as well as selling their loaves and treats. Tami also bakes bespoke loaves for special occasions and runs weekly bread making