Selfmade Experts: Ruth Barry / Black Isle Bakery

© Portrait: Robert Rieger / Still Life: Lena C Emery

Sometimes in life, it isn’t about the right decision, but about asking an important question – which might as well be a simple: “Why not?”

For Scottish-born Ruth Barry this exact question paved the way for a choice that defines her life today: she became a baker. It is due to Ruth, that many of the best cups of coffee in town – for example by Bonanza or Companion Coffee – taste even better accompanied by her sweet treats. We asked Ruth to fill us in about her exciting career path.

I didn’t consider a career in baking until the summer of 2011. I had studied fine art, worked in

art institutions in New York and London, before settling into a management position working with some of the world’s most well known artists. Being part of the machinery that powers the art world didn’t suit me though, and so whilst on holiday in Russia in that summer of 2011, I gave myself six months to work out what I was going to do with my life. I remember naively thinking “why not a career in baking?” as though it could be that simple!

A chance introduction to the Parisian bakery Du Pain et des Idées led to a threemonth apprenticeship working with Chef Patron Christophe Vasseur and his team in the spring of 2012. I barely spoke French, but so much of baking is looking, feeling, smelling, tasting; I learned a lot. I returned to London and founded Black Isle Bakery, with the intention of opening a café one day. I began catering for private functions, started a market stall, ran a couple of popup cafes, and developed a line of retail products that I got stocked in some of my favourite London stores. Everything looked promising until my personal life took a dive, that’s to say it completely fell apart. I’m cutting a very long story short here, but after asking myself a lot of questions about the kind of life that I wanted, I moved to Berlin in December 2014.

After shipping my belongings and baking equipment here I was left with £600. I’d never had to fish for work before, people had always come to me. Now I was in Berlin, with no money and no contacts, so I was going to have to ask to make this work. My first client came after I overheard one of their founders talking about their struggle to find a good bakery supplier. It felt too serendipitous to ignore so I introduced myself. I approached more cafes, put feelers out for catering jobs. Now, less than a year in, I supply four cafes every week, have provided catering services to some very exciting clients, and am in the early renovation stages of the first Black Isle Bakery café. Things are working out at an amazing rate.

Moving to Berlin was a huge risk, and so, knowing there was no safety net to catch me, I threw myself into the challenge of creating the life I want. It’s very hard, and I mean very hard. I work seven days a week, and am permanently exhausted, but the payback is increasingly tangible. And what a joy to, little by little, watch my dreams come true.

©Robert Rieger
Zsuzsanna Toth

Born in Budapest and raised in Vienna writer and producer Zsuzsanna Toth settled down in Berlin in 2009. Since her teenage years she has been a collector of magazines and is constantly busy inhaling new publications - both print and digital. After her fashion studies she worked as the editorial and managing director of I Love You Magazine and Freunde von Freunden. Today she focuses her freelance work on the intersection of editorial consulting and content production.