Big thank you from

Jenny Munro talks to Chris Ferguson

CHRIS Ferguson, 41, from Lisburn runs The Country Kitchen Home Bakery and restaurant based in Sloan Street. He took over the family business after his parents retired. Chris is married to Audrey and they have three children Lyndsay, 13, Alex, 11, and Luke, 6.

Chris went into the business after lie finished his schooling and began his apprenticeship. He has staved there ever since and has watched the business thrive over the years.

My alarm goes off at 3am and I am in work for 3.20am. I live on the Braniel Road so I don't have too far to travel each morning.

I meet the bakers who normally start between 3.30am and 4am, depending on the work load for that day.

We start baking the breads and sodas and get the two vans stocked up with he wholesale goods. Once the vans leave for the deliveries we get started into the production of cakes, pastries and savouries which will be sold in the bakery.

There is a team of 10 bakers and decorators and I have a foreman who I liaise with each morning and he makes sure that the bakers know the bread amounts required. Bread orders are called in daily - one of the girls in the office puts orders into our computer system and then a production sheet is compiled to let us know in the bakery what is required. We also have to check for birthday cake and cream cakes orders. Once the products are baked they have to be packaged and labelled.

The foreman will order in the supplies on a weekly basis. This includes oil, flour, wheat, eggs and sugar for example. Prices are going up a lot so we are always looking for the best deals.

In the kitchen the restaurant chefs will arrive and start preparing dishes for sale. As well as hot food they make sandwiches and filled rolls too. The shop staff come in at 8am and we open for trade at 8.30am for people who want their breakfast. It is always very busy in the restaurant at breakfast and at lunch too.

Once it is mid morning I start to do administration work, go through emails and check the post. I will speak to suppliers and sometimes go out to visit stores who sell our products.

My wife comes in at lunch to work in the office and the cleaners generally arrive once the bakers leave around midday. At 3pm I head off to do the school runs and make sure the kids get their homework's done. Then Audrey comes home and we all have dinner together. I am health and safety officer for the business so I am continuously making sure we are all adhering to the rules and regulations.

If there's any maintenance needing done in the premises I nip back in at 6pm. My dad still owns the property so he helps out too. I am training for a triathlon event coming up soon - so it keeps me fit.

I take the children with me on the bikes and we all enjoy spending time as a family. Training gives me a good buzz and keeps me focused on running the business.

I'm normally in bed between 9pm and 10pm as I have such an early start. Running the business is very rewarding -yes there is a lot of pressure but at the end of the day the benefits are rewarding and it's great to see the business going form strength to strength.

Ulster Star