The Suited Baker: The award-winning Sheffield bakery serving up delicious vegan and gluten-free bread and sweet treats
As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and so, when a chef was diagnosed with Coeliac disease and found the range of gluten-free products to be lacking, he set about making his own bakes.
Who is the Suited Baker?
Ermes Giummaressi, or the Suited Baker as he has come to be known, initially began focusing on making high quality, gluten-free bread.
“I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and there were not so many good products. I’ve been a chef for more than 14 years and wanted to create something with excellent standards,” explained Ermes, who hails from Sicily in Italy.
But his first foray into gluten-free baking came as a child, when his grandmother was teaching him how to cook.
“She would make these amazing gluten-free sponge cakes, and taught me how to make them,” he said.
Ermes arrived in the UK after winning a training programme with the renowned, Michelin Star restaurant Simpsons in Birmingham, where he spent a month being taught the tricks of the trade by a Michelin Star chef.
From there, he worked in other Birmingham restaurants, before moving to Chesterfield for a role at Nonnas, and then to Sheffield where he has worked at Piccolinos in the city centre and then Marco at Milano in Millhouses.
Ermes found himself without a job, and at a crossroads; whereby he had to decide between unemployment and ‘working for his dreams’ by starting his own business.
And thankfully for Sheffield’s Coeliacs and vegans, Ermes chose the latter option and The Suited Baker was born in September 2019.
Where does the Suited Baker get his name from?
The business’s memorable name originates from a nickname Ermes was given because of his tendency to wear suits at any given opportunity.
"It’s just how Italians dress. If we go on a night out he’ll often wear a suit,” his partner, Natalie Fletcher, who helps out with the business, tells me.
The name also reflects Ermes’ desire to tailor the baked goods they produce to their customers’ tastes and wants.
His astute use of social media, which includes polling customers on the type of new products they would like to see, means The Suited Baker’s offering is continuously evolving and expanding.
Natalie explained: “Ermes worked really closely with customers to understand their wants and frustrations with gluten-free food and vegan food.”
While the Suited Baker has gained a reputation for their delicious vegan food, Ermes began by focusing on gluten-free, artisan bread.
Customer requests for deep-fried gluten-free doughnuts turned Ermes’ attention to sweet treats.
He explains that while plenty of bakeries make gluten-free doughnuts, most of them are baked, not deep-fried, leaving plenty of Coeliacs with a hankering for substitutes that more closely resemble the decadent original.
"Customers run our business. A customer contacted us and said they were sad that their son couldn’t have a gluten-free version of a maple and pecan doughnut when they visited Tim Hortons, so we made them a version that they loved. We’ve also made apple fritters and things like that,” Ermes said.
Ermes added: "From September  to March  I was experimenting with baking, we were trying new recipes. We were using social media to find people to try our products, we were giving lots of stuff away.”
How did the pandemic affect The Suited Baker’s business?
The business was still in its infancy when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and The Suited Baker started producing boxes with gluten free bread, pitas and pasta.
This coincided with a pasta shortage in the supermarkets, as part of supply problems, partially caused by panic buying.
"That’s how we got put on the map and started to see growth. It helped to put our name out there,” Ermes said.
As a result of the pandemic, Natalie says it was September last year before the business really began to take off.
The supportive gluten-free community
Today, the Suited Baker has a devoted following within the gluten-free community, both in Sheffield and beyond, and customers have even travelled all the way from Brighton to visit their bakery at the Alison Business Centre, Castlebeck. The number of staff has also expanded to a team of six, including two delivery drivers and three other bakers.
The Star also honoured them with a Best New Business award in our Small Business Awards at the beginning of October.
Their premises is entirely gluten-free, meaning nothing with gluten is ever cooked in their kitchen, and staff members are asked to leave the kitchen if they want to eat anything with gluten in it so they can avoid any risk of cross-contamination.
Ermes suggests that some businesses which claim to be gluten-free bake with products that have previously used products with gluten in them; and so while they can claim to bake without gluten, they cannot legitimately call themselves ‘gluten-free’.
He says he is passionate about working with, and supporting, local businesses; and they supply around 14 Sheffield cafés and restaurants including Albies Coffee; Pom Kitchen; Gypsy’s Brew; Molly’s Café and Deli; Beanies Wholefoods; Paesani and South Street Kitchen.
Ermes and Natalie have described how their desire to operate in an ethical way, whether that is through baking to order to ensure their output is ‘zero waste,’ keeping packaging to a minimum, not using preservatives and only collaborating with businesses whose values are aligned with their own, informs every decision that is made for the business.
"We’ve found that the vision for every one of the businesses we work with fits in with what we’re trying to do...we like to work with people who care about their products and their customers. We’ve said that if they don’t align with us then we won’t do it [collaborate with them],” said Natalie, adding that they are careful to ensure that if they do stock more than one business in the same area that the offering will be different in each establishment.
The Suited Baker’s range of delicious sweet treats
Over the last 18 months, The Suited Baker has expanded their range to include a wide range of sweet products including s’more cookies, macarons, cinnamon buns and their increasingly popular selection of doughnuts in flavours including pistachio; chocolate and orange and vanilla sugar.
Ermes has described how their customers are such big fans of Suited Baker products that if they post about which Sheffield business they will be delivering their baked goods to that day there will often be a rush on sales, and that they have previously sold out within two hours.
"There have been times when we’ve driven up to deliver and there have been people queuing already,” he said.
Ermes and Natalie say a turning point in Suited Baker’s trajectory came after a Sheffield Hallam researcher, who spent time comparing customers before the pandemic and now, found that over half of people who decide to go gluten-free do so because of lifestyle choices as opposed to a medical diagnosis.
Ermes described how it made them realise that their customer base is much wider than the one per cent of the population who have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease.
"And that’s when we started thinking about going vegan because it fits in with the clean-living ethos of a lot of the people who have gone gluten-free out of choice,” said Natalie.
What next for the Suited Baker?
The next step Ermes hopes to take is to open a customer-facing bakery in an area like Crookes because he values his relationship with customers so much.
They also have a number of pop-up events planned at Sheffield eateries.
Currently, the majority of the Suited Baker’s sales come from supplying cafés and restaurants, but customers can also order from the Suited Baker directly via their website at: https://thesuitedbaker.com/