In the Tom and Henry Herbert household, three things flourish with age – good looks, talent, and the sourdough culture started by their grandfather Thomas almost 60 years ago.
“Grandpa Herbert was given the sourdough culture by a German baker who said it was at least 30 years old – perhaps even older – and that was back in the spring of 1985. Since then, we’ve nurtured it like a mother, always replacing whatever we take out of the sourdough culture vat to rise our breads, by replenishing it with fresh organic dark rye flour and water. This way, it’s never run out (or died), grown in volume as we’ve needed, whilst maintaining its multi-award-winning and irresistible, tangy flavour,” writes Tom on the bakery’s official website.
That sourdough culture is still used to make breads at their family’s Hobbs House bakery, the central premise of their hit television series The Fabulous Baker Brothers. Tom helps run the bakery while chef-turned-butcher Henry manages the adjoining butcher shop in Gloucestershire, Britain.
The television series may have brought them fame, but their breads have been the talk of the town since they were just boys.
“We are fifth generation bakers. Our family has been baking since the 1920s, doing what we have been doing for a long time. The television show, however, has opened doors for us to other opportunities,” says Tom, the older of the two.
One of such opportunities is travelling the world to promote their shows. The brothers were in Malaysia to support the inaugural TLC Festival Malaysia held at Setia City Park, Setia Alam.
Watsons Malaysia was the main sponsor of the one-day event where more than 15,000 fans got to enjoy a day of lip smacking food and drinks, fun filled activities and performances, and a chance to meet and snap photos with their favourite TLC personalities. The brothers did a quick masterclass with some lucky kids on making churros at the event.
“It’s quite a challenge trying to balance the media stuff, run the family bakery and take care of our young family. But we enjoy every moment of it. Now, we are in Asia, and that is exciting. But when we get back to England, the wife tells me to vacuum the house, and that’s great because you get back to reality,” Henry jests.
But for as long as they are in Malaysia, Henry cannot wait to get his hands on roti canai.
“I have been dreaming about it since I last had it here in 2013. I’ve tried to make it at home, but it’s not as big as the ones I found here. I’ve been trying to get the whole ‘spin in the air’ thing, but I guess that takes years of practice. I also want the Penang chicken rice. It looks so plain but tastes like heaven.”
Tom is looking forward to having cendol which he claims he hadn’t had anything like that before or since then.
The brothers hope that they can generate the same kind of excitement with the classic British cuisine back home, which Henry says has had a bad rap among tourists.
“That’s really sad because we do have amazing produce in Britain. We make good cheese, beer and meat. We are proud of our good produce,” he says.
Their show celebrates the good produce, which Tom says needs to be talked about more often.
“The trend now is healthy food and everyone wanting to eat well. There’s no use of processed meat, and vegetarian cooking for everyday consumption has become popular.”
Henry adds: “I’ve got a small garden, from which I learn so many things from. Like, how I can’t grow strawberries in the middle of winter – simply because they don’t grow then.”
Henry’s gardening and Tom’s baking skills are featured on The Fabulous Baker Brothers, together with their daily banter. Like every sibling, they argue and call each other a pain in the neck.
“It’s fun to experience this together, to be honest. We’re family, so we don’t have to talk to each other all the time,” says Henry.
“But if we do argue, it’s mostly about who gets the window seat on a plane.”
And with each episode, their brotherhood flourishes even more.
The Fabulous Baker Brothers airs on TLC (Astro Ch 707) every Monday at 11pm.