French Village Bakery History

French Village Bakery originally opened on the Stranmillis Road, Belfast in June 1981

French Village Bakery originally opened on the Stranmillis Road, Belfast in June 1981 bringing to the area something different in home baking. Using traditional methods and the best of ingredients, French Village soon became synonymous with quality, freshness and service

Due to the demise of home bakeries in the 90's brought by the influence of supermarkets i.e. one stop shopping, French Village had to reinvent itself and look to other markets.

We now supply a network of hotels, cafes, restaurants and other food retailers throughout the greater Belfast area. Our delivery network is designed to supply fresh products daily to all our customers at very short notice.

Henry French - Founder

Henry French decided to set up the bakery and café on the Stranmillis Road in 1981 after years of training and experience working for other bakeries.

Henry served a five year bakery apprenticeship in Ormeau Bakery, Belfast.

Henry says "I was fortunate to work at the time in one of the worlds leading bakeries come factory. Apart from breads and flour confectionery they produced biscuits, chocolates and sweet confectionery. Experience in such departments gave me some edge on other apprentices who solely worked with bread and flour. It was also my intent no matter what job I was shown, to master the task then look to see what improvements could be applied . Most factory practices are boring and repetitive, and I was always looking for an improved means of production, often a change of method material or equipment would bring about and overall improvement but not always.

Apprentices tend to be used as extras with little or no responsibility. This soon changes when you become a journeyman baker you are placed in a position of responsibility controlling a machine or part of a team where you are immediately expected to keep up to speed.

I attended the College of Business Studies one day a week for four years in the bakery department along with apprentices from all over Northern Ireland. Having passed the basics City and Guilds exams I decided to enroll for additional studies involving 2 to 3 night classes per week to study organic chemistry and microbiology. Coupled with advanced bread making and flour confectionery this enabled me to obtain the highest qualifications possible at that time. I was proud to be recognized as the best performing student over 4 years, at the college receiving the Perpetual Cup and an inscribed watch which kept good time for many years.

Back in Ormeau at the day job working in many different departments, I always strived to do my best. The years moved on and one day I was called to my directors office to be told of promotion. This was totally unexpected and came at age 21 making me the youngest ever member of the management team, it had always been my ambition but came sooner than expected. Thus starting my journey in to management my only reservation was my young age. The company gave me an early opportunity to develop my skills by arranging trips to London and Manchester etc. to study the latest in new equipment and techniques which may have application at the bakery".

After working for Ormeau, Henry was a bakery manager in a couple of other large well known bakeries. He then made the tough decision to work for himself and started French Village Bakery. With his wealth of knowledge and experience, dedication and hard work, French Village Bakery was a hit with the public and has continued, to this day, to build an excellent reputation for itself.

French Village Bakery - Today

Ashley one of Henry's sons has now taken over the running of the business.

Ashley always knew he wanted to follow in his Father's footsteps and after school he continued on to college to study baking and creative cake making. He carried out his apprenticeship in the French Village Bakery when it was located on the Stranmillis Road, learning all about the bakery business from his Father.

Ashley was very much involved in the re-invention of the business when it relocated and moved into wholesale production. He naturally became more involved into the day-to-day running of the business and progressed into managing the bakery. Ashley has a natural flair for baking and keeps a close eye on what the current market demands. He regularly comes up with new recipes and products to ensure French Village can offer exactly what the customers want.