When Paddy Murphy saw who he was up against for Scottish Baker of the Year, he figured he had no chance.
“There was McGhee’s [a Glasgow baker], they’re massive,” Paddy recalls. “And then you’ve got Stephens Bakery – they were the first to do a drive-through in Scotland. The other contender was Fisher & Donaldson, which goes back 14 generations.
“So for us to win… it was a surprise.”
Paddy’s victory at the awards, held in Glasgow last month, was indeed remarkable.
Baking’s big guns often run away with the top prize.
But Paddy’s The Three Little Bakers – with just three outlets in Inverness – won from the competition’s smallest bracket, the craft bakery category.
And if it was a shock decision on the night, among the most surprised were Paddy and his wife and co-owner at The Three Little Bakers, Jane.
“A complete, complete surprise,” Paddy says. And though he laughs off a suggestion he partied the night away like an Oscar winner, he does admit to a share of the spotlight.
“Everybody wants to speak to you, and everybody wants their photographs taken,” he says. “But we managed to get maybe a half an hour, just the four of us [from The Three Little Bakers] together, where we got a quiet table and had a chat.
“But it couldn’t last long because we were driving back home to Inverness the next day because I was due to be firing up the rolls.”
How did The Three Little Bakers in Inverness start?
Despite the unglamorous ending, the win was a vindication for Paddy and Jane, who bought The Three Little Bakers from the original owner in 2013. The business had already been on the go since 1996, but comprised just the one shop in Cradlehall.
Paddy, previously a manager for supermarket chain Morrisons in Inverness, brought a mix of baking talent and business acumen to the new venture.
“It was stressful,” the 53-year-old Glaswegian remembers of those early days. “But it’s just like jumping on a treadmill – you have to keep going. If you cannae reach the button you just have to keep going!”
Four years ago, Paddy and Jane opened a second site on Harbour Road, and in July last year launched their third bakery, on Tomatin Road.
Paddy says his secret is giving the highest level of service he can to customers.
That, and having the best morning rolls this side of the Forth. The Three Little Bakers lost out only to Bayne’s of Edinburgh in the Baker of the Year morning roll category.
“We’re probably best known for our morning rolls,” says Paddy, who took top spot in the category in 2018. “All the bakers are looking to win that award.”
What else does the The Three Little Bakers offer?
Recently, The Three Little Bakers hooked up with the Inverness Roasting Company to develop their own coffee blend, which is used in all three shops. Paddy has also started selling milkshakes and ice cream.
But the baker maintains that delivering good quality food day after day remains key.
And, as if to prove that winning Scotland’s top accolades has not yet gone to his head, Paddy adds: “As boring as it sounds, being consistent is a good thing in baking.”