Renowned city antiques restorer and dealer Mark Jameson has uncovered another hidden talent.
He’s putting the skills passed down from his great-grandfather on hold after discovering he really is a Restoration Man - and is a dab hand at baking.
When wife Sarah’s Abbeydale Road tearooms opened in February last year, she was so overwhelmed by demand for her home-made cakes she realised she needed another pair of hands.
The nearest belonged to husband Mark, who was busy French-polishing antiques in his workshop at the back of her cafe. “I summoned him into the kitchen and thrust a few recipes at him. I was flabbergasted at the result. He’s a really talented baker,” said Sarah.
“I should have known he would be. He’s worked with his hands all his life and antiques restoration is a labour of love. Mark is very patient and a perfectionist; they’re the ingredients a cake-baker needs.”
Mark has mastered 25 different cakes and arrives at 7am daily to turn out 15 beautifully decorated sponges before Jameson’s tearooms opens at 9.30am. He bakes more batches throughout the morning, leaving the fruit and loaf cakes to mother-in-law and top baking tipster Jean Rowlinson.
“I was very daunted at first,” admitted Mark, 51. “I’d never baked before but discovered I really enjoy it. It’s so satisfying when people tell you how good your baking tastes. I’m not a cake fan so I rarely try what I make.
“Some men have said it’s a girls’ thing but I disagree. Actually there are similarities to my profession. Now I’m getting that perfect finish on a cake instead of a cabinet.”
Mark’s antiques business has had numerous obstacles. He ran the shop his great-grandfather Albert Edward Jameson founded in 1883 on Glossop Road until the Supertram works forced closure, then set up a workshop in Rockingham Street.
When his wife opened her cafe in Abbeydale Road, Mark used half of the premises to sell antiques and collectables.
But the sale of tea and tiffin outstripped vintage bric-a-brac and Sarah took over his floor-space. Now his workshop is under threat, too - Sarah hopes to turn it into a tea room annexe.
He’s not complaining, though. “The bottom has dropped out of the antiques market and I go where the money is,” he said. “We earn more from the tearooms. Our record was selling 198 cakes in a week - most of which I made. I still do some buying and selling of antiques but I’ve stopped taking restoration customers.”
He would surely be a worthy contender for the Great British Bake-off crown, but Mark’s not biting. “I’ve never watched it and I don’t fancy appearing in it,” he said. “Sarah keeps me far too busy anyway.”