Local Heroes is a series where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great, and next up is Wild Goose Bakery, the only South African artisan bakery in the UK. Wild Goose came into being when Kirstin Kinloch-Steyn and her husband Vernon Steyn, who had both achieved great success in the hospitality industry – Kirstin graduated from one of London’s top cookery schools and has worked in a range of kitchens in the capital and Vernon has worked at Browns Hotel and under Mark Hix – wanted to do something together based on their shared “love of food and belief that food can open doors and create community.”
Wild Goose is inspired by Vernon’s South African heritage both in terms of what the bakery produces – koeksister doughnuts, melk tarts and bobotie hand pies are amongst their bestsellers – but also in terms of the values they live by, which are drawn from five different South African tribes. There’s positivity and celebration of life from the Xhosa people, sharing skills from the Venda tribe, artistic self expression from the Ndebele people, teamwork and entrepreneurship from the Sotho tribe because “we believe that all people regardless of background should feel confident and supported to dream big and build a legitimate and financially independent future”, and generosity and kindness from the Zulu tribe, which Kirstin says “is practiced on a daily basis by showing respect, generosity and kindness towards others. We aim to create community through relationship, seeking ways to give back to our local community and pursuing our environmental conscience.”
The bakery is based in East London, with locations in Forest Gate and Leytonstone, and the pair, who have lived in Leytonstone for 12 years and have three young children, have found a great community there with lots of other families also putting down roots. Wild Goose runs as a social enterprise because, as Kirstin says, “our ethos is our driving force to try to give back to the community that supports us & we try to ensure our impact on the local community is a positive one”.
That includes being single-use plastic free. offering apprenticeships to young people, working towards accreditation as a disability confident employer and working to fight food poverty. “Throughout the seven years we have been here we have gone into partnership with the area’s largest food bank, giving a minimum of 360 eggs a week plus flour and basic food essentials to local families struggling with food poverty, ” explains Kirstin. “During the pandemic we set up a suspended care pack project which asked our customers to help us pay for packages of food essentials for people affected by food poverty”.
And the local love continues with two businesses Kirstin wants to give a shout out to, “we have been involved in a collaboration with Willy’s Pies for the last few months. They make the most amazing pies and have a great ‘support local’ ethos. We also absolutely adore Meatlove in Leyton!”