While most people dream of running away to join the circus, it could be said Paddy Gordon ran away from the circus to become a baker.
Paddy Gordon and his partner, Lesley Trenwith, opened the Taranaki Sourdough Baking Company with the dream to deliver good quality bread.
Before opening the business, Paddy was a part owner of Circus Aotearoa, working in the business as the director in charge of logistics and compliance. He co-owned the business with his brother Damian and sister-in-law Irene.
"I kept the circus on the road and fed the performers."
Feeding the performers came naturally to Paddy, as he has always had a passion for food.
"I absolutely love food."
While Paddy travelled all of New Zealand as part of Circus Aotearoa, it was Stratford that captured his attention as a place to open his new sourdough bakery business.
Paddy's partner Lesley did indeed run away with the circus, but it is also her connection to Taranaki that has led them home.
Lesley was from Taranaki originally, before moving to Auckland and then joining the circus.
"I met Paddy on a kayaking trip in Whanganui in 2007. I decided to get out of Auckland and run away with the circus. I loved being on the road," Lesley says.
Paddy baked his first loaf of sourdough bread six years ago.
"I used to look after a property in Raglan. It was 80km to the shops and so every round trip we made, I would always by a loaf of sourdough bread because I love good quality bread."
Paddy says his baking skills have grown, thanks to someone he calls his mentor, Neville Chung.
"He taught me how to make the sourdough bread."
After travelling all around New Zealand for 10 years, Paddy moved to Stratford. Lesley was born in New Plymouth and she say she has always wanted to come back to Taranaki.
"I love Stratford, people always have time to stop and have a chat. When you go and do things people talk and start conversations. It's so nice - the people make the town."
Paddy says the Stratford community has received the baking company well.
"We are receiving lots of good feedback. The donuts we make are a real hit."
Despite each loaf and donut being different, all of the baking has one thing in common. Helga.
"Helga is our starter," Paddy says. A starter, also called levain, is a fermented dough filled with natural, wild yeast and a bacteria called lactobacilli. The starter is what makes sourdough bread rise.
Helga was seeded from a 20-year-old starter.
"We've had her for six years. Every day I feed her and use her as the starter for the baking instead of yeast."
Paddy feeds Helga 2kg of water and 2kg of flour every day. A bit of Helga goes into every bit of baking, making it authentic.
The baking takes roughly 20 hours, depending on the product Paddy is making.
"The key ingredients are salt water, flour, water and lots of love and time."
Paddy says no two loaves are the same.
"There are so many variables which affect the final product. No two things are the same."
Lesley says many things can be made with sourdough.
"If you can do it with yeast, you can do it with sourdough."
As well as delivering authentic sourdough creations, Lesley and Paddy support the community.
"We get our meat from a local butchery and our coffee is from Ozone which is roasted in New Plymouth."
Their sourdough bread can be eaten by people who are gluten intolerant. Paddy says he has had many excited customers because of this.
"We have had a couple of people come in who are gluten intolerant and they've been excited to see we have donuts available."
Taranaki Sourdough Baking Company has many philosophies, Paddy says.
"We believe in no additives, no preservatives, no pre-mixes and the product has to be all authentic, made with top quality grains and flours.
"If your grandparents don't recognise it as real food, then we don't use it."
The next step for the company is to develop seeded and fruit loaves.
"We're giving Helga time to grow and establish in a new environment," Lesley says.
While Paddy loves making the bread, Lesley enjoys the taste of sour dough.
"It's great tasting. I love it. It's such a natural food."