A recipe for success

Adam and Debbie are pictured outside Bourkies Bakehouse.

When Adam Bourke realised he had built up his bakehouse to become a defining feature of Woodend, he knew he’d done something right.

After 34 years, Bourkies Bakehouse is now an institution in the town and Adam is preparing to hand the legacy over to new owners.

What people may not know is that its baking founder almost didn’t continue his early career, had the fates not intervened.

After completing a four-year baking apprenticeship, at age 20, Adam decided to try a completely different line of work in mining and at a sheep station in Western Australia.

It was a life-threatening windmill accident at the sheep station that brought him back home. Following three months recovery, an opportunity arose to purchase Woodend Hot Bread.

Adam was able to do so with the help of his father, Maurice.

From humble beginnings, with nine staff and a small shop, the bakehouse has employed more than 400 local and junior staff over its 34 years of baking with a current staff of more than 40. And, of course, that unforgettable vanilla slice!


One of the bakehouse’s highlights was winning the 2003 and 2004 Great Australian Vanilla Slice Competition.

“That’s what made us,” Adam said.

He developed a recipe to transform the typical Aussie ‘snot block’ into something people would travel far and wide for. All it took was an afternoon of experimentation with texture and flavour.

“Our signature product is still vanilla slice,” Adam said.

“The custard is the star of the whole thing but a good flaky crisp pastry is also key. That’s what people come here for. We sell over 100,000 a year. It really put us on the map.

“The bakehouse has also had consistency in putting out a good product with good quality ingredients and with staff always taking great pride in their work.”


The bakehouse has also taken pride in serving up the nostalgic bakery classics with most of its recipes spanning the decade

“Our recipes now are still the same now as they were originally,” Adam said.

“We have found new things here and there but generally we have stuck to our old recipes. It has been the same meat pies, the same sausage rolls, the same pasties for 34 years.”

The bakehouse won many awards for its pies and bread over years too, and Adam joked that “bakeries seem to have a competition for everything these days”.

Adam said something that has really made the bakery a success is strong support from the community.

“We really appreciate our locals and regulars that come in each morning. We thank the local community that has supported us for years,” he said.

Local residents are proud to claim the bakery as their own and its strong community links have every bit to do with that.

The bakehouse has supported various projects and groups around the town over the years including the Woodend Children’s Park, Woodend-Hesket Football Netball Club, local scouts, Woodend Golf Club, school fetes and the Woodend Lions Club.

Adam is proud to share the bakehouse’s success with wife Debbie and two children, Mitchell and Carly, who both work at there.

Adam and Debbie with children Mitchell and Carly.

Adam’s last day at the bakehouse will be May 19. Adam and Debbie plan to spend early retirement with family and friends, travelling, fishing and working on the garden at home.


The legacy of Bourkies Bakehouse is expected to live on with new owners, Joe and Katrina Patti and Kiro and Tess Nic, taking the helm this month.

These families have been working side by side for the past few weeks to share trade secrets and perfect much-loved recipes for a smooth transition.

The new owners are excited to carry on bakehouse traditions, retain staff and continue to build strong community connections.