It’s not every day that people get to turn their passion into a business. But for John More in Bridge of Earn, his love of scones is proving to be a big hit in the local community.
In mid-May, there were reports of a new culinary creation to hit local coffeehouses in Perth, of a hybrid pastry that lay somewhere between a scone and a calzone.
These “sconezones” have been making a name for their creator John More, of Bridge of Earn bakery Johns Scone Mad, who turned his passion for making scones into a thriving business two years ago.
Following The Courier’s story on his new creation, John has been relishing in his new-found fame, with the story also hitting the headlines elsewhere.
“It’s insane!” he said during a break from making scones in his converted garage.
“The sconezones hit the headlines in The Times, Daily Record and The Sun and were mentioned on BBC Radio Scotland within a few days of each other. People keep telling me I’ve become like the rock ‘n’ roll star of scones. It’s usually grannies that are associated with scones!”
Back to work
After signing off sick from the fast-paced chef industry, John’s bakery was born from his love of making scones, which he was able to harness to help get him back into work again.
He said: “I used to work at Balmoral Castle working for the Queen for four months. I was an agency chef and I worked all over the place but then I went to work as a head chef at a caravan site and the stress of the job just basically got to me. I just had to sign myself off sick and needed to have a re-think about what I was doing work-wise.
“Being a head chef brings some serious pressure and I was stressed. So I had a wee break and then I just started making scones. I’d always made scones in various places and I had started doing things with them like using seaweed as an ingredient and adding in different things.
“When I was the head chef at the caravan site they had a sweetie shop so I basically tried putting in lots of different types of sweets and was thinking ‘nobody has done this before’. They started going down a storm.
“A friend of mine was foraging seaweed and he would give me some to put in the scones. It acted like a salt substitute and when you start using things like that it totally changes the taste, so I just got creative with it.
“Making scones is a hobby that helped me with my mental health and stress – baking really did help and it did kind of saved me, I suppose.”
One of John’s first customers was his mum, who he cares for at her home in Bridge of Earn. Her home is also where his bakery kitchen is based – in his mum’s converted garage.
“When I was off sick I just started making them for my mum, who I look after, and for my niece, who I was looking after during the summer. From there it just snowballed and people started asking for them more and more, then I started doing a few shows.
“The first big thing I did was the Perth Show and I came second place in that, which I couldn’t believe! I did about 36 different types of scones for that weekend and sold about 1,500 or something ridiculous like that – I’ve never made so many scones in my life!
“So then I started looking for a property and my mum said ‘why don’t we just convert the garage?’. I converted the garage into a little bakery, instead of paying money on rent etc. I thought I’d start off in the garage and see how it goes. It’s just kept snowballing and I’ve just kept my product good.”
Having honed his creativity skills for much of his career, John’s scones are often his way of showcasing his newest and boldest ideas, and customers are more than happy to appeal to his creative side by ordering unusual flavour combinations.
“It’s bespoke ordering so people can tell me if they want a certain flavour combination of scone. With businesses I often tell them what flavours they are having – my sconezones in Mhor Coffee House for instance, and a new dessert I am doing with The Bulldog Frog in Perth.
“Pauline at Craigie Hill is wanting some batches so I will do some for her that will work for the golfers. That’s the kind of way that I work it, so there is an artistic thing to it.
“I also get customers asking for some quite strange orders, though I will try and do them all. A customer got in touch last week to say she wanted apple and peanut butter-flavoured scones. A few weeks ago I was also making some that were smoked salmon and raspberry flavour, too.
“I’m often asked to make scones that are a sweet and savoury mix. They work with jam and cream but also with a bit of smoked salmon on top. It’s hybrid baking. It’s the same as the sconezone – that’s definitely hybrid baking and I got quite into doing that.
“A scone is just pastry and pastry is very adaptable, you can put anything in it. It’s also very adaptable when it comes to making things that are vegan or gluten-free and lends itself well to lots of different flavours.”
From his converted garage, John makes all of his scones fresh to go, with customers popping by throughout the day to pick up their orders from his popular scone kitchen.
He added: “A few folk have said I couldn’t make a living out of baking scones, but I have because I’ve adapted so much. People love them and the amount of reviews they get is crazy. I make them the old-school way – they are done in old fashioned bowls and I don’t use any machinery. That might change soon though – I’ve got an order for 36 sconezones coming up!
“The garage is fine for the moment and it’s a professional kitchen I’ve had fitted but, as the business gets more popular, the problem is where to put all the scones, so people have to pick them up to order. I’ve got nowhere to put 1,000 scones!”
For customers who are looking to order, John’s Facebook page is the best way to get in touch, with a minimum order of 12 scones being required for every order.
“People can get in touch with me to order the scones, it doesn’t have to just be businesses,” he says.
“But I sell them by the dozen and won’t do them any less than that. I usually do two dozen for £25, a dozen is £15 and I do platters for people as well where the scones are a bit more like canopies.
“I don’t do any other baking apart from scones. That’s why I’m called Johns Scone Mad. I think if you do one thing and do it well, you might as well really stick at it.
“I’ve got a standard menu on my Facebook page but I can adapt from that. I can also deliver my scones if needed but it’s generally people picking them up as I make them fresh. They also freeze well but they don’t travel well so I can’t post them to people. I’ve got a lot of elderly local customers who will buy in bulk off me now and then will freeze them so that they’ve a month’s or so supply of scones.
“It’s really quite sweet and I like the way that it’s quite personal and friendly for the customers. That’s what bakers and butchers used to be like – you got to know them personally.”
With his willingness to experiment and try out any flavour combinations his customers throw at him, John has learned a lot about people’s habits and preferences when it comes to scones.
“One of my most popular flavours is black pudding and spring onion, which people seem to get for breakfast,” he said.
“But I also do brunch ones, afternoon tea ones, and that’s where the sconezone came from. There were all these different fillings and I thought ‘why don’t I put these fillings in the actual pastry and fold it like a pasty?’.
“A lot of people seem to prefer savoury instead of the sweet, but there are still some who prefer sweet. I’ve also started to use quite a lot of Scottish produce in them as well – basically, you name it and I’ll put it in a scone!”