I first got to know Nadya when she joined us at Clevedon School for our Christmas Extravaganza. She came along with the most sumptuous array of cakes which sold out in record time.
Nadya has four children: Aliya nineteen, Maggie eleven almost twelve, Oliver ten and Oscar seven and the latest addition to the family, her Sage Bakery Boss BEM825BAL mixer which she bought with monies she won from the gym, for being the most active user in the month of September. Nadya laughs this off but you would need a very high level of fitness to do all that she does. The purchase of the Sage is significant, as this former Fortnum and Mason Baker (by appointment to the Queen) has decided to relaunch her business https://www.facebook.com/ohforheavenscakeclevedon/ she has re-registered herself as a food business, her food hygiene certificates are all in place and it’s all systems go!
As well as her family commitments, Nadya is a familiar face at the Teatro Lounge where she is Assistant Manager. She had at one time worked as General Manager at the Impero Lounge in Portishead which she enjoyed, but found all-consuming. Too tired on days off to do anything other than catch up, sadly little time for baking. Working as Assistant Manager, she doesn’t have that ultimate responsibility for the whole of the business and has been able to cut back on her hours.
Many of you may also remember her from her role as Motormouth in Hairspray for which the Somerset Fellowship For Drama awarded her the prize for the best cameo role.
“But as showstoppers go Nadya Callahan as Motormouth completely blowing our socks off with ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will stay with me for a very, very long time. It was spine-chillingly brilliant.”
Nadya enjoys being a member of CLOC because it’s something she loves doing and and she gets a lot out of it. She spoke very warmly about her ‘ClOC family’ who made her welcome the minute she stepped through the doors and described the support from others in the group as overwhelming.
When Nadya left school she trained to be a chef, hoping to specialise in pastry. Sadly there was no avenue for her to develop her pastry skills and in the first job she had which was in a pub, most of the food was cooked in a microwave! She joked about the only cheffing she did was cutting up liver!
Leaving this job she got a post with her trainer at Clevedon Golf Club where she had lots of opportunities to bake for the many functions that were put on. At the end of her training, the kitchen which is a separate entity to the golf club was franchised so sadly Nadya and her trainer were unable to continue there.
At the age of eighteen Nadya then went to Browns which was a massive kitchen with lots of people with huge egos but sadly there was already somebody there responsible for the baking; Nadya would assist her when she could but there was really not enough work for two. She was frequently told that if she wanted to specialise in pastry she needed to go to London but with nothing specific to go to in London for, she decided it was not for her and her ambitions to be a pastry chef fell by the wayside, although she continued to bake.
Aliya came along and Nadya worked for Comet in Customer Services for twelve years; she continued baking. One day, she and her husband were listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2 who was interviewing a woman in Devon who had developed a thriving business making brownies; Nadya’s husband Mike suggested that Nadya could do the same. This was in 2009.
In 2010 Nadya redid her kitchen and really started to think about how she could progress her baking career. She contacted Fortnum and Mason and asked them could she send them some samples of her cakes and brownies. After lots of toing and froing and tweaking of recipes they said they wanted her to make giant jammy dodgers similar to the ones that Costa were selling at the time and a range of brownies including gluten-free. Nadya has fond memories of her time with Fortnum and Mason, they came to visit to have a look at her kitchen and they invited her to the store to let customers sample her cakes. It was a huge commitment as Nadya supplied them with four of each of the different type of brownie that she made, and forty or more jammy dodgers (which they renamed jammy biscuits) on a weekly basis. Nadya would send them by post or her husband would take them to London on the mega bus which meant setting off at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning .
The birth of Oscar meant that Nadya was unable to continue with the business although she did continue to bake. With the relaunch of Oh for Heavens Cake Nadya is delighted to be back baking again but is hoping to find customers a little nearer to home. Understandably!
I wondered if Nadya had thought of applying to go on the Great British Bake-off which she had, but seriously questioned her ability to work full time and then bake from Friday to Sunday over a period of ten weeks. It would be very challenging and all-consuming but if anyone could do it I’m sure Nadya could. In her usual self-effacing way, she was less sure, doubting whether she would even get on it! I’m sure Nadya’s right about it being all consuming and very stressful but what a launch or should I say re-launch to her baking career! She could be the new Nadia with a y instead of an i!
I asked Nadya about her three favourite bakes; being the queen of brownies these were top of her list and as she said everyone loves them. A classic lemon drizzle cake was her second choice and although she doesn’t make them very often she likes making meringues because it’s so easy to make them very pretty without a lot of effort.
Nadya also loves making and decorating wedding cakes although they are the most stressful item to bake and transporting them to the venue is always a mission!
I was curious as to whether Nadya came from a baking background and how she started making the larger celebration cakes and wedding cakes. Nadya is a self-taught baker, she started making the celebration cakes by putting out a notice looking for ten people to bake a cake for £10 which basically covered her ingredients. She said the progress she made from the first to the tenth was phenomenal. Bearing in mind that Nadya has baked from a young age, it made me think of Malcolm Gladwell’s ten thousand hours rule. Gladwell explains that reaching the Ten Thousand Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practising a specific task that can be accomplished with twenty hours of work a week for ten years.
Nadya agreed and thought that if you had a reasonable eye and were willing to have a go, anyone could learn to make and decorate cakes. She really believes this and although she considers herself as not being able to draw, she is about to embark on an art class because perhaps she can; perhaps she just needs some initial tuition and lots and lots of practice.
I asked Nadya would she consider doing workshops because I have lots of friends who I know would sign up as would I. She is considering it but feels that she needs to do a business course before she branches out because she doesn’t consider herself to have the best business head. To this end, Nadya is going to do a three-day course with the North Somerset Enterprise Agency which will cover business basics such as planning, management, finance, and charging. She finds costing of her cakes particularly difficult and knows that she is currently under-charging. She knows she needs to value her work more and not be embarrassed about asking for a realistic price, particularly for the celebration and wedding cakes.
I finished off by asking Nadya what it was in particular that made baking such an intensely satisfying experience for her because I could tell from the way she was talking that this was her true passion and her excitement about the relaunch was almost palpable. She finds it relaxing, almost meditative; it helps her find space in her mind. Although it is for financial gain, she loves doing something nice for someone and creating what it is that they had envisioned. It is also a great outlet for her to be creative in the artistic sense as well as in the sense of the challenges that you have to overcome to get that perfect bake.
It was an absolute pleasure interviewing Nadya and I wish her all the very best for the future. Let me know when the workshops are up and running because I’ll be first at your door. Thank you Nadya.
Find out more about Nadya and ‘Oh for Heavens Cake’ here: