Our bakery colleague Gary Gordon has struck up a great friendship with 85-year-old customer Audrey Bond, a keen baker herself who comes in to our Barking store every week and passes on some of her fantastic tips.
She’s helped him improve her favourite product – tiger chest bread – and she often brings in home-baked goodies for the team.
Gary says: “I never got the chance to meet my grandparents so I call Audrey my grandma. When she turns up I stop what I’m doing and give her my full attention – she’s wonderful.”
Thanks to Audrey’s advice, he says his tiger chest bread is now “as good as you can get”.
Audrey says “I enjoy going in to Asda. They’re all nice there and always make time for me – but Gary’s a little bit special. He’s a great fella – lovely and very kind.”
She gets the bus to the store at least once a week and always looks for Gary, as well as making sure other customers know about his best products.
“I was in the other day and they do these lovely bread rolls. This lady was next to me looking at them and I asked her if she’d tried them. She said she hadn’t, so I told her she really had to give them a go. She bought some so I called out to Gary and said ’I’m selling your bread for you’. He was laughing.”
Gary, who’s 36, said: “We’ve built a great relationship. She’ll always comment on whether our products are good or bad. I listen to my customers and want the best for them so the feedback is great.”
He said one of her best tips was how to improve the shape of his tiger chest bread.
“Sometimes it would come out shaped more like a big kidney bean or some would have a parting in the middle. She showed us how to form the loaves correctly before putting them in the prover.
“She also pointed out that you can get misshapen bread when the loaves get too full of air, which comes from leaving them in the proving room for too long. Now, because of Audrey’s tips, the tiger chest is as good as you can get.”
Gary, who’s been at the store for three years, said everyone at the store appreciates it when Audrey bakes cakes at home and brings them in for them.
“She does the best banana and walnut cake you’ve ever tasted and the walnut and date is fantastic too. I take the cakes to the canteen to share with colleagues and they all really enjoy them.”
Audrey lives in Barking with husband Fred, who’s 88. They’ve been married for 64 years and have one son, Graham, and two grandchildren.
She said: "It started a couple of years ago. Gary cuts my bread for me and he’s always so pleasant. I started looking for him every time I went in. I used to call him ‘my man’ and I’d ask around saying ’where’s my man today?’
“He’d come out, cut my bread and we’d have a laugh. I mentioned to him that I was making some rock cakes and said I’d bring a couple in for him.
“I normally bring Gary a banana and walnut cake. The other day I brought him a cherry and caraway seed cake and he loved it.
“I used to work as a supervisor in an electronics factory, but I’ve always been involved in baking. All my family have always cooked – one of my sisters used to have a cafe on the Isle of Wight.”
She said she’d noticed Gary’s tiger bread was looking a lot better lately after she’d passed on her tips. “I love the tiger bread they make. It makes lovely toast.”