John Downes

Freeform sourdough bread baking in a wood fired oven built by John DownesJohn Downes stands in front of his wood fired oven

John Downes started the modern sourdough movement in Australia, circa 1978 at Feedwell, in Greville st Prahran (VIC). John was the original owner of Natural Tucker Bakery, Firebrand bakery and the Newrybar Bakery. Because of John, Australian's began their journey in style: 100% sourdough made with organic flour.
If the mega bakeries had introduced sourdough first, we would have been eating San Francisco sourdough before Melbourne, Sydney or Newrybar sourdough. Because of John, new entrants to the "sourdough" category are rated on a scale from "0" (chemical dough flavoured with packet acidifiers) to "100" (an organic dough ripened with spontaneous leaven).
Of course the scale doesn't actually exist, but perhaps it should, or at least that was a topic of our conversation. I had approached John to help me with a perspective on what constitutes "Australian Sourdough". If anyone would know, he would. Anyhows, the man is passionate about the responsibility of bakers to clearly identify what is in their bread. I agree that it is ridiculous that bread-eaters have very little idea about what they are eating.
This wasn't some half-baked anti-commercial-yeast-in-sourdough conversation. There are excellent bakers out there...artisans...making a style or variant of sourdough that uses commercial bakers yeast in the process. The results are far superior to any straight yeast breads. Problem is the bread is simply labeled as "Sourdough". It is not straight sourdough. It is yeasted bread with a sourdough twist.
John said that he had looked at ways of regulating what can and can't be called sourdough (as in France), but there were powers stronger than he. In fact his lobbying in the earlier days led to a rift...and withdrawal of subscription...with one of the bakers groups in NSW. John and I agreed that there were other ways of promoting, (branding) sourdough as sourdough, and that is something we could work towards.
Bakers who worked with John are many, and a good few still practice in and around Melbourne. Of course bakers are born to be bakers but working the dough with John must have embedded a stubborn rejection of compromise. These bakers live the rhythm of sourdough and refuse to modify that rhythm to any great extent. The sourdough has a controlling interest, rather than being forced to conform by bakers working with chemical, mechanical and other controls.
John is currently making handcrafted wholefood cereal at the Original Cereal Company. John bakes in a woodfired oven he built himself and is extremely happy with its performance . His bread varieties include the classic Casalinga, Wholemeal and John's own Barmbrack (Irish fruit bread). John Downes is an accomplished author (Natural Tucker, The Natural Tucker Bread Book and Soy Source) with another book or two on the horizon.

Articles on Sourdough and Artisan Baking

Please See the Johnd BLOG

Original Cereal Company

Bread Availability (SA):

Wilsons Organics
Goodies and Grains
Willunga Farmers Market


Natural Tucker
The Natural Tucker Bread Book
Soy Source

Publisher: Hyland House
Author: John Downes

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Contact details

    Tooperang, South Australia, Australia.

    Phone: 0422950697

Product Standards

Artisan Baker Association members are encouraged to list their products and their corresponding sourdough baking standards below. See the standards.

Product: Standard:
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G'day John,
I remember that oven! The fire almost got away from yer and I'd gone walkabout with my dog Lady, so Gerry had to help you deal with it!
Maar tells me you're off to UK, having been head-hunted for an interesting job. Good luck mate. Jesse appears to be succeeding in his bakery up at Southport from all reports too. Bloody fantastic, you Downes mob!

Plain and simple, chocolate chip cookies glazed with Hersheys. You just can resist the chocolate-y taste and plus, the dark chocolate dip adds to the flavor. My mom collects various recipe books and term papers on how to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookies!

Our family refers to these as the "Scary Good" CCC. They are quite sweet, but that convinces you to eat fewer at a time! The texture is just what I want in a CCC, and they really are fool-proof. They have never turned out poorly, no matter who in the family made them.I get some goldbet form my stomach about this nice choco cookies.