After a late and dramatic career change, Michael Quealy has become a hit baker in north-eastern Victoria.

Story Sue Wallace  Photos Bec Haycraft

It’s an early 2.30am start 4 days a week for baker Michael Quealy. He became an apprentice in Beechworth at the age of 52 and 3 years ago opened his own artisanal bakery, the Happy Baker, in the small country town of Yackandandah in north-eastern Victoria.

“I usually start my morning with 15 minutes of stretching, then drive to the bakery, which isn’t far from home and start my working day,” Michael says.

“After a coffee I get stuck into baking – I prepare my sourdough bread one day and cook it the next, followed by croissants and pastries and any special orders.”

Up to 70 loaves of sourdough bread are in the oven by 3.30am, followed by 150–180 pastries and 50 small cakes and tarts.

A little later, Michael is joined by his wife Terie, a casual schoolteacher, who at the start of his baking venture offered to give him a hand for a few hours on a Friday morning. Little did they know how popular the tiny bakery would become. The couple are run off their feet to meet the constant demand for quality bread and pastries.

Terie says family and friends were surprised when Michael decided to retire from his job as a land valuer director in Albury to try his hand at baking. “For someone who hadn’t ever cooked at home, we thought he was joking, but he is very dedicated and is good at what he does,” Terie says.

Michael admits his career rethink took many by surprise. “I never really thought about being a baker, but when I got to 50, I decided I didn’t want to be a valuer for another 20 years,” he says. “So, I visited a few bakeries and was lucky to get an apprenticeship at Silver Creek Sourdough in Beechworth, then I got great experience at Nord Bakery in Albury, known for their breads and pastries. The kids thought I was crazy, and Terie probably thought I was having a midlife crisis when I came up with this idea and I certainly couldn’t have done it without her.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #154

Outback Magazine: April/May 2024