It’s safe to say that baking has always been a popular British past-time. Michel Roux Jnr and Eric Lanlard are names that spring to mind when I think of bakers (oups, patisserie chefs, excusez-moi) but I’m probably in a minority. The much loved Mary Berry and bearded, Paul Hollywood are the people’s choice when it comes to cakes and bakes. We’re a nation obsessed with TGBBO (The Great British Bake Off) with its hundreds and thousands of fans and viewers – it’s compulsive foodie viewing.
Gavan Knox, or Mr Mom as he’s more commonly know, is also an award winning baker…. of cupcakes. This stay-at-home dad has turned his passion for baking into a thriving culinary business. With flavours such as Mint-choc Delice, Lemon Meringue Pie, Tea & Biscuit and my all time favourite, Banoffee Pie – this is one baker who rises to the occasion – it’s the yeast he can do (BOOM).
Born out of my passion for baking and my role as a stay-at-home dad. It seemed the natural thing to do – “Mr. Mom” by nature and now “Mr. Mom” by name. I want my love of baking and passion for flavours to bring others as much pleasure as it brings me, my family and friends.
That sounds like my kind of mantra! Here’s what Mr Mom had to say when we caught up with him recently.
First, how long have you been sporting a beard and do you ever shave it off?
I’ve always had a beard in some form or another- usually a goatee. The only time I’ve shaved it off was for my husband’s 40th birthday party. It’s was 80s themed and I dressed as Robert Smith of The Cure- afraid the beard had to go! All I have to say is “Never again!”. After returning from holiday in May I decided to let it grow and have been growing it since. Not a bad rug, I think!
What, if any, are the restrictions/rules for facial hair in the kitchen?
Some establishments can be quite picky about facial hair in the kitchen. There’s still very much a prejudice against beards and facial hair as being unclean and messy. Thankfully my business, “Mr. Mom’s” is run from my own home so I need only adhere to local health standards. I keep my beard clean with regular washing and conditioning. Like anything else as long as you stick to good personal hygiene there isn’t a problem.
I would imagine that bearded cook/chefs are in the minority because of the hot working conditions – would you agree?
Possibly. I find the opposite with a beard- it actually protects my face from heat when opening oven doors etc. I think most people automatically think of cooking and baking as a very clean-cut industry. Thankfully there are more and more hirsute bakers coming out of the kitchen thanks to the likes of Sy King and Dave Myers (The Hairy Bikers) and Paul Hollywood. Even on the last series of The Great British Bake Off we had Iain Waters- a truly bearded baker. Shame about bin-gate!
Where did your passion for cooking stem from? Give us the full story
Are we sitting comfortably…? I grew up in the kitchen. I learned much of what to do there from my mother- in fact I completely credit her for my culinary aptitude. Whilst it was my father who could change a tyre, or fix a leaking tap, it was safe to say that he would break into a cold sweat and probably be found rocking in the fetal position if tasked with cooking Sunday dinner, let alone baking the requisite bundle of Christmas cakes that my mother produced each year. My mother baked- she baked A LOT. The woman is responsible for my introduction to Mary Berry, as well as my abhorrence for Queen of Puddings. Without her I wouldn’t know a rolling pin from a sledge hammer and it’s safe to say that without her there’d definitely be no Mr. Mom’s.
Since becoming a dad I’ve found myself remembering and revisiting a lot of recipes I first learned at my mother’s hip. In the pursuit of twenty-something trendiness and fervour, they not so much got lost as put on my mental shelf in some effort of unconscious archiving. Now as a parent I find myself dusting them off and in some kind of culinary muscle-memory they come into play again.
I get quite a buzz from seeing smiles and satisfaction on the faces of people who eat what I’ve made. It’s a great feeling.
There’s nothing wrong with cake crumbs in your beard- sometimes you just gotta’ surrender to the cupcake carnage!
Would you consider branching out from cupcakes alone – any plans in the pipeline?
Cupcakes are where my heart really lies. With Mr. Mom’s I’ve taken it as my mission to even the cupcake playing field between men and women and make it more acceptable for guys to enjoy cakes of any size – even cupcakes. There’s nothing wrong with cake crumbs in your beard- sometimes you just gotta’ surrender to the cupcake carnage!
I have however decided to branch out into the brownie market. Not only does this give me more flavours to expedient with but also shipping-wise it allows me to reach a wider market. Cupcakes don’t travel well despite all efforts! Over the coming weeks I’ll be introducing four flavoured brownies for sale online.
I’m also working with the charity, Beating Bowel Cancer to release some exclusive flavours of cupcakes and brownies to help promote their Decembeard campaign. It’s such a worthwhile cause that as a bearded baker I felt it only right to lend a hand.
In the long term I’d love to look at releasing books spreading the word from Mr. Mom’s Kitchen. Teaming together unexpected flavours combinations is something that I’m really interested in – I like to push the boundaries a bit. As my award winning Smokin’ Pig Licker brownies bear testimony to – chocolate; chilli; bacon and paprika is not your Average Joe flavour! The books wouldn’t just be limited to cupcakes but also bakes in other shapes and sizes.
An ideal world might also see me on the small screen. Something not too polished but still different enough to grab your attention. I’d like people to want to pull up a stool in my kitchen and have a chat, sampling my bakes whilst learning something new. Think along the lines of the love child of Nigella Lawson and The Hairy Bikers?
Do you have a beard grooming routine? If so, could you share it with us? How often do you trim?
I’m still testing products to see which ones work best for me. Good ones so far are The Bearded Man Company and Apothecary 87. I condition my beard everyday with oil – I’m currently using Apothecary 87 beard oil which is an amazing smelling sandalwood oil. They’ve recently added some new limited editions of Chocolate and Malt Whiskey which I NEED to try!. Moustache-wise I style with wax from Apothecary 87. I can’t stress the importance of brushing and combing – it certainly helps to get rid of all those cake cupcake crumbs! So far I’ve mange to collect a boar-hair bristle brush; a few Kent combs and a sandalwood beard comb. I tend to use the boat hair brush after showering and applying oil. If I need styling on the go, Kent have a rather nifty folding comb which is just fantastic.
Do you think having a beard gives a man a sense of “gravitas”?
I think having a beard can affect the way you carry yourself whether you want to call it gravitas; strut; swagger I guess it just depends on the individual. Just having a beard itself doesn’t automatically grant you this. There’s a massive difference between letting your face hair go wild and having a well groomed, stylish and conditioned beard. As the saying goes “With great beard, comes great responsibility”. It certainly provides a talking point and is always an ice-breaker.
Finally, who is your ultimate bearded hero and why?
I’d have to say Jeffery Bunocristiano – yes, he of the Buzzfeed beard fame. This guy really knows how to carry off a beard! His is the perfect example of how to grow and maintain a well-groomed beard instead of any old scraggily, hipster nonsense. I truly aspire to his beareded awesomeness!
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