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Muddy meets the queen bee at Gail’s Bakery

Marta Pogroszewska, MD at GAIL's Bakery talks Tunsgate, tahini cake and turbo-charged New York City ahead of the opening of their Guildford bakery on Thursday.

Marta Pogroszewska, MD at Gail's Bakery

Pull on your stretchiest trousers people! The artisan bakery chain GAIL’s opens in Guildford’s Tunsgate Quarter this week bringing its gorgeous range of baked goodies to Surrey. Hurrah!

And while Muddy will obviously be among the first through the door when it opens on Thursday, we absolutely couldn’t wait that long to get the goss on this growing artisan business. So we caught up with the company’s powerhouse MD, Marta Pogroszewska.

Gail's bakery

So, Marta, GAIL’s is coming to Guildford – hurrah! – but what took you so long?

We love Guildford for the town that it is. It’s beautiful … and there’s so much history and character. There’s a real neighbourhood feel to it, and a very strong sense of community – it doesn’t feel as big as it actually is. So we’ve always wanted to be in Guildford but until now we couldn’t find the right spot. But when we saw this space, and the transformation of this little street, plus the fact that we’re part of the Tunsgate Quarter – it was a very easy decision.

Freshly made sourdough breads, cakes, quiches and pastries – what’s your best seller?

Cinnamon buns are absolutely our best-seller. They’re so good!

And your own personal favourite?

Our food it so delicious. My favourite is the olive baguette. I eat at least one a week. We bake it with whole olives – our bakers call it olives with baguette rather than baguette with olives. It has won taste awards recently, which just tells you how great it is. I’m vegan, and I also love our chocolate and tahini cake. There are beautiful chunks of amazing chocolate in them, so while it’s indulgent, it’s also kind of good for you. At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Gail's Bakery, cinnamon buns

I’ll be trying it all when I visit. And I hear the coffee is amazing too?

Yes! I’m drinking the filter coffee right now – we have fantastic single origins and a new blend of filter coffee. We’ve invested a lot in really state of the art equipment so you get a full flavour and can appreciate the coffee at its best.

As well as offering baked goodies to take home, there will also be a café at GAIL’s in Guildford – so customers can pop in for brunch, lunch or a coffee and cake?

Absolutely, we have quite a big seating area – and it looks really lovely. We’ve put a lot of effort into making it look great. We want to create an environment and an ambience that makes people want to take their time and enjoy the food! It’s spacious – so there’s plenty of room for people to safely enjoy coffee and cake in house. We have a nice menu for brunches and lunches as well. I hope everyone will find something they love.

I can’t imagine there’s ever much left over at the end of the day, but I’m told that GAIL’s operates a zero-waste initiative, tell us more about this.

We call this Waste Not – a really nice tag. Our ambition is not to waste anything, so at the end of the day anything that isn’t sold is given to charities – and the important thing is that it’s still super fresh. It’s all been baked and prepared overnight or early in the morning on the same day. We work with more than 40 charities, so it’s going to the people who need it most. But we’ve also given our breads to the NHS, and other local community groups.

We also use some of our leftovers to make our Waste Not loaf – it’s a waste-less sourdough made using yesterday’s surplus bread.

Your own journey in business has been very food focussed – you were at Pret A Manger for just over 12 years before the move to GAIL’s. How did it come about – it is simply a love of lunch, or has it been a natural career progression up through the ranks?

I kind of fell in to it and then fell in love with the industry. The hospitality industry is, as it happens, very hospitable and welcoming. And if you find yourself in it, it’s very difficult to leave. Pret offers a lot of opportunities, to everyone, not just to me, and I enjoyed my career with them. I think I had something like 17 different job titles while I was with them.

Gail's bakery, bread

So you started at the bottom and worked your way up –

My son was six months old and I wanted to find work on the night shift. I was working overnight. But I realised I could become a manager pretty easily, so I became a manager, and then I grew through the ranks. I became operations manager, then operations director. I went to the US for three years, I lived in New York and ran the operations there. I came back in 2016, met Tom Molnar, the founder and CEO of GAIL’s and decided to join and I haven’t looked back since. I absolutely love GAIL’s. We have a really great growth mindset and a lot of passion for craft and food and I’m really enjoying it here.

Ahhh, New York! One of my favourite cities in the world…

I loved working in New York. It’s really fast paced… if we think London is fast, then New York is turbo-charged. It’s a great city to live in for a few years and enjoy, and a very interesting country – it’s such a cosmopolitan place. I got to different places and meet different people. It really opens up a different way of thinking for sure. It’s different to Europe. It was a really great and enjoyable time. I had a fantastic team and I made a lot of friends. I worked hard, but I also enjoyed time there too. I got to travel see a lot of the US and South America.

You have a son, what an amazing experience for him as wellAnd a great experience for your son?

My son was nine when we got there and 12 when we got back. He took so much out of this. He’s amazing – he’s now 16 years old – and I think those three years were so important for him… to help him see life from a different perspective. He gained so much from it – the confidence they teach in schools there is great, and he had to develop his communication and interpersonal skills – he went to two different schools (primary and then secondary), but he went through all those things and got a lot out of it.

You’re a single mum, and you’re running a huge and very successful artisan bakery chain. Erm, how do you do it?

Ummm. I don’t know. I’m used to it. Everyone has different situations in life, and I can only speak for myself, but I’ve figured out what works for us – my son and I. And we have a great relationship. He’s grown to be an independent, and a curious and fun teenager – so I’m happy that it turned around like that. Every single step of the way, when you’re a mother you just get on with it, I guess. I’m super proud of him.

GAIL’s is growing at a pretty rapid rate, what is the secret of your success?

Yes we keep growing. We have another six shops to open by the end of February next year, all going well. We’re keeping a close eye on the situation, with the pandemic. We don’t want to grow too fast, we want to be quite considerate and humble about the situation, and safe, and make sure we are keeping our teams and customers safe so we’ll open them when we’re ready. But Guildford is next, and we’re definitely looking around at other sites. So watch this space!

GAIL’s Bakery opens in Guildford this Thurs 29 Oct.

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