CORA Boston Spa: Meet the Leeds head bakers putting their fine-dining twist on patisserie

There's nothing more satisfying for CORA's head bakers than seeing their delicious pastries, bread and cakes spread out ready for the day ahead.

Sunday, 7th November 2021, 2:42 pm

Work begins at 6am for Mary-Jane Walker and Rosie Wilkinson, who spend their mornings mixing, baking and painstakingly decorating the treats which will fill CORA's shop and kitchen.

Opened by Masterchef star and HOME chef-patron Liz Cottam this summer, CORA is a contemporary bake house, dining room and wine cellar in Boston Spa.

It's as much a fine-dining institution as it is a casual bakery, offering takeaway treats, a la carte and tasting menus spanning breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Rosie Wilkinson, left, and Mary-Jane Walker are the head bakers at CORA in Boston Spa (Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Mary-Jane and Rosie were picked out by Liz for their prowess as bakers and their creations form a central part of the restaurant's offering.

They both fell in love with baking as youngsters while growing up in Essex and Kent respectively - Mary-Jane fondly remembers her nan's sausage rolls and jam tarts, while Rosie was inspired by her mum's home-cooked food.

"Me and my brother would get out little bowls and pretend to be on a cookery show," Mary-Jane, 31, said.

"We’d pretend to be presenters, making little rock cakes, and I've always loved the feeling of feeding people."

CORA has received high praise since it opened in May, with queues forming outside the bake house as people line up to grab a takeaway treat (Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Rosie, 29, added: "Apparently when I’m mixing something I still do it on my tip-toes, because that’s what I used to do when I was cooking with my mum!"

The pair both moved to Leeds for university and have made Yorkshire their home; Mary-Jane has previously worked at Betty's and Baltzersens in Harrogate, while Rosie was trained up at artisan bakery Leeds Bread Co-Op.

“People are so passionate about food in Yorkshire," Mary-Jane said.

"There’s an idea that everything revolves around London, but I don’t believe that - there’s so much good stuff going on in the North and a lot of people who are passionate about making really good-quality products that are just delicious.

“I’ve been here for about 13 years now and every year I’m here I fall in love with Leeds and Yorkshire that little bit more. There’s always new businesses popping up and great places to visit, but it’s small enough that there’s a real sense of community.”

The head bakers combine their knowledge of baking with Liz's flair for modern fine-dining, adding unexpected flavours and twists to classic bakes - from a chocolate cake with carrot caramel, chocolate ganache and liquorice, to a roast potato, roast garlic and rosemary loaf of bread.

Rosie said: “Every aspect of CORA is really well thought-out, down to the dessert, wines, the way the table is set.

"Everything has a lot of effort put into it, it’s a combination of all the skills that we have under one building - which is a lot."

CORA has received high praise since it opened in May, with queues forming outside the bake house as people line up to grab a takeaway treat, and bookings for the patisserie-based brunch tasting menu are in high demand.

Rosie added: “On a Saturday morning, when we’ve got all the pastries and cakes spread out and people start coming through the door, itching to get in, it’s nice to know they’re going to go home and have an extra special morning.

"If you’re lucky, some of the pastries and bread will still be warm out of the oven.”

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