Buerton baker Jinja Bakes unique school of thought

Janis Warburton has swapped fashion for biscuits. Now she wants to use her tasty treats to help schoolchildren learn. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Forget Jamie Oliver, Janis Warburton has her own plans. The celebrity chef may have banished turkey twizzlers from school menus across the country but the 44-year-old mum is hoping to do her own bit for education - she wants to use her home made biscuits and cakes.

The mum-of-two, from Buerton, has spent the past few years building up her business Jinja Bakes. She supplies a few local delis and cafes and does local deliveries. But her ultimate aim is to launch a mail order service, supply her dream store Fortnum and Mason and use baking as a way to help children learn.

Janis has used her baking skills in the past to help young relatives get a grasp on mathematics and spelling. She already helps out at Audlem St James C of E Primary School, which is attended by her daughters Josephine, six, and Beatrice, four, and would love to get more involved.

‘I have always enjoyed working with children,’ said Janis, who is originally from Liverpool. ‘I think what I do would transfer into education.‘The National Curriculum is very rigid but children learn in different ways. I think by using different methods it can help children take things in more. I helped my niece when she was little and it helped her take things in a lot more.’

Janis developed her passion for cooking as a child when she watched food guru Mary Berry making a meat pie on television. She told her Shanghai-born dad, Chong Tai, that she wanted to learn and the next day he came back with all the equipment she needed.

Ever since, she has been fascinated with experimenting in the kitchen. She spent a lot of time baking as a way to take time out from her previous job as a designer and buyer for fashion labels.

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But it was when the enterprising mum, and husband Chris, decided to move back to Cheshire to be closer to family, that she struck on the idea of baking biscuits for a living. It was Josephine and Beatrice, as well as invaluable encouragement from 40-year-old Chris, that re-ignited her passion for baking.

She said: ‘I love making biscuits with the girls and we always have a lot of fun.

‘My friends and family became more aware of what I was making so I decided to start my own cottage industry from home. I wanted to produce something that looked as good as it tastes. Hopefully I've managed that.’

Janis uses local ingredients to make her biscuits, including eggs from her neighbour’s prize-winning flock of ducks which she said give her biscuits a creamier taste. And her tasty treats have attracted a diverse range of fans.

She said: ‘Some of the local farmers love them. I was standing behind one man in the shop. I had to laugh to myself when he asked for a pink dinosaur biscuit. I’m pleased so many people like them though.’

Janis is now hoping to work towards her dream and become more involved with local schools as well as starting the mail order service. Friends are also keen for her to start holiday baking parties. And supplying Fortnum and Mason would be a dream come true.

‘That would be the ultimate for me,’ said Janis. ‘To be able to sell my biscuits there would be incredible. I don’t want the business to get so big that it gets out of control but I’d love to supply them.

‘Baking is a lot of fun and we have enjoyed a lot of times doing it as a family. Josephine even makes her own biscuits now and loves it. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to do this, now I just want to make the most of it.’ 

Get your kids cooking

Use your imagination: the most prosaic dish can become fun for kids with the help of shapes, colour and cookie cutters!

Be organised: Have everything at hand, clear enough space to work and allow enough time to enjoy it.

Keep it simple: Even greasing tins, preparing ingredients or whisking egg can be fun.

Avoid crockery disasters: Try to use plastic or metal bowls and jugs.Keep calm: Don’t get hung up over mess. They’ll get it in the bowl eventually, or failing that kids love washing/brushing up/hoovering!

Easy and fun ideas to try

1. Jam tarts. You can even use ready rolled pastry (it still counts). The fun is in the cutting.

2. An all in one sponge mix. It is better with younger children as it is quicker for shorter concentration spans.

3. Meringue is so easy and very visual. Get out your piping bag and get carried away.

4. Pizza. Buy the ready to mix packets of pizza dough and let your imagination run wild. Why not try a fish shaped pizza with a tuna topping?

5. Make your own bread. Buy a good bread mix add olives, cheese, or leave it plain, then mould it into shapes. This is a good way to learn letters and numbers.