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Scotland's Larder: Iain Baillie from Tantrum Doughnuts Glasgow

In the latest Scotland's Larder Tantrum Doughnuts owner Iain Baillie talks about working at Heston Blumenthal's and setting up a doughnut empire.

Published: May 3, 2021
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Iain Baillie and his wife Annika are the duo behind Tantrum Doughnuts in Glasgow.

His wife comes from a large Maltese family, where food is at the heart of the family.

She fell into waitressing and then a career in front of house, but always had a keen interest in food.

While Iain comes from Perth originally, he inherited his passion for cooking from his parents.

In the kitchen

His parents met working in a hotel together, he said, "they used to tell me stories, which made it sound nice."

He said, "food growing up was everyday things, normal stuff, but all cooked from scratch."

His father now works in Scottish Enterprise and his mother runs her own biscuit and cake company.

Tantrum Doughnuts. Picture: John Devlin.

When he was younger he worked alongside his mum at Gloagburn Farm shop, and then at Ballathie House hotel.

After school Iain attended Perth college, "the head lecturer there, Ian Gibb, was really supportive of my career," he said.

Next he went to Gleneagles and worked with Paul Devonshire in The Strathearn restaurant.

He said, "it was fantastic, I absolutely loved it."

He had first visited the hotel on a 'take your kids to work day.' He explains more, "my dad didn't have the most exciting office so he arranged for me to go and spend time there instead."

It gave him a glimpse into hospitality and from that day forward, he was determined to work there.

Years later, David Cochrane, who gave him that tour, employed him there.

Heston Blumenthal

Iain worked at Gleneagles for three years before successfully applying for a scholarship, funded by HIT Scotland charity.

By coincidence, David Cochrane is now the chief executive of HIT Scotland.

They fundraise throughout the year, to send youngsters working in hospitality to learn from the best in the business.

Iain went to Heston Blumenthal's, Michelin three starred The Fat Duck restaurant, in Bray.

Heston Blumenthal. Picture: Getty Images

He said, "so a totally different world, with insane standards."

They take chefs from all over the world, (as Stagiaires)

He spent time in the lab, and the chocolate room, kitchen and on the prep side.

He said, "The first thing I had to do was place very thinly sliced parsnips soaked in sugar syrup on dehydrator trays, nice and neatly, but it took hours."

Initially he went down there for a month, but they offered him a once in a lifetime job.

Iain explained that Heston was often away building the brand, but his head pastry chef was a fellow Scot, Jocky Petrie.

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Iain Baillie from Tantrum Doughnuts
Tantrum Doughnuts being made. Picture: John Devlin

Jocky was in charge of pastry and went on to become the head of development in the experimental kitchen.

He said, "everything is so precise, weight is down to a point of a gram.

"It was amazing, I learned so much from being exposed to that world."

However it was extremely pressured, he said, "because a lot is expected of you, it was difficult and hard but I loved it.

"There were more chefs than diners, which is very unusual for a restaurant."

He recalls, spraying chocolate for gateaux, making edible playing cards or bacon and egg ice cream.

Iain said, " but by the end of a few years I was burnt out with the pressure."

Malta

Annika, who was his girlfriend at this time and he decided they should move to Malta, where she is from.

Iain then worked at the pastry department of Hilton Malta.

He said it was catering, "on a different scale. But the hours were a lot more normal. I had time to go to the beach, swim and get a tan. "

After a year or so, they moved to Glasgow, Iain explained: "we both felt we wanted to settle here, we love Scotland and I was missing Irn Bru."

Iain Baillie from Tantrum Doughnuts
Pistachio & Hibiscus are also favourites at Tantrum Doughnuts

He had done some work experience whilst at college with Darin Campbell, who was now the head chef of One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow's west end currently at Cromlix.

"I asked him if he had any jobs and I was just lucky he was looking for a pastry chef.

"It was nice to have my own section and it was certainly the most freedom to express myself through cooking I had ever had," he said.

Annika also worked there and the couple got married at the hotel.

Business Start up

It was at that point they started to think about owning their own company, but the couple had no formal business training.

They went out for dinner at a local restaurant, Ox and Finch and were impressed.

Iain met the owner, Jonathan MacDonald, and he explained that they wanted to open their own business eventually but that they would like to learn from him and asked if he could work there.

Luckily for the pair, he agreed so Annika and Iain started to look at business options.

They didn't have any start up capital, so knew they would need to start small scale which is why they chose doughnuts.

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It was a core product they could become well known for, as well as being able to change the fillings and toppings.

Iain Baillie from Tantrum Doughnuts
Tantrum Doughnuts. Picture: John Devlin

He said, "no one else was really doing it. There were definitely ones in London but nothing like it in Glasgow."

They started experimenting with a popup stall in the urban market at Drygate brewery, while still working at Ox and Finch.

Iain said, "I had to work the day before, so Annika did the prep and we would cook throughout the night and pack them into my mini cooper and sell them, before crashing out.

"There was quite a buzz about it."

They finalised their business plan and Jonathan MacDonald even invested, taking a risk on their enterprise.

In the beginning

They started with a small shop unit on Old Dumbarton Road which they renovated around working full time.

He said, "we had to rip everything out and start from scratch."

They were on a tight budget, so did a lot themselves.

They opened in 2015, and Iain said, "it was exciting but absolutely exhausting because we had underestimated how much work had to go into the product to make it to our high standards.

"It is a brioche dough which takes a long time to make and it can be quite temperamental.

"But if we were willing to put the hours into other peoples' businesses, then why wouldn't we put them into my own enterprise to make it a success?"

Luckily they went into profit quite quickly.

Their best selling doughnut is Crème Brûlée, a vanilla custard doughnut topped with sugar syrup and then blow torched. Picture:John Devlin

He said, "there were only the three of us. Annika and I would work six days but on the other day we would still have to do all the preparation and the accounts.

"It was stressful, back to Heston hours starting at two in the morning."

They needed to work hard to be able to afford to hire more people.

Tantrum

They outgrew the first shop and took a second one nearby, which gave them a lot more space and meant they could turn the old one into the bakery.

Next they opened a shop on Gordon Street, and the cast from Still Game are known to pop in for a doughnut or two.

Tantrum Doughnuts are mixed and proved overnight, fried and decorated before being driven to the shops

He said, "Halloween, Christmas and Easter are massive for us and we do other special days like StarWars day."

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Tantrum Doughnuts toy

Their best selling doughnut is Crème Brûlée, a vanilla custard doughnut topped with sugar syrup and then blow torched like the dessert.

Chocolate Millionaire and Pistachio & Hibiscus are also favourites.

They also took time to develop a vegan range of flavours, Vegan Blueberry Jam Glaze and a Peanut Butter Ring.

He said, "we took it back to basics and made a vegan version of a brioche.

"We get non vegans who buy it just because they are nice. I think that is the best testament."

New York, New York

Three years ago Annika and Iain took a trip the Big Apple, not to do the usual tourist things, but to visit doughnut shops and bakeries to get inspiration.

Iain said, "doughnut culture over there is fascinating, we liked The Doughnut Project and Du's donuts they were both fantastic.

"It is just interesting to see how ingrained in the culture doughnuts are. We were both huge by the time we got back."

Tantrum Doughnuts
You can't hurry love. Proving the dough takes time. Picture:John Devlin

A mini doughnut

Annika has been in charge of front of house but she is currently on maternity leave.

The couple welcomed baby Rory at the end of November - Annika discovered she was pregnant on the second day of lockdown.

Iain said, "it was something we put on hold for a while because we had to focus on the business."

During lockdown Tantrum closed for three months before reopening for takeaways, Iain said, "that was a difficult, and uncertain time."

The first day they closed they donated all the stock to the local food bank he said, "it was a really nice thing to do."

What is next for the doughnut empire?

"We were planning for a big expansion before lockdown, and we are both very positive for the future, because we have a great team."

More shops may be on the cards, but the nature of the product means it is too fragile a product to ship out.

Iain said, "everything we make is for that day."

"Annika is really involved, and at the very heart of it. A lot of the original design, flavours and even the production wouldn't have happened without her."

The couple are rightly very proud of the doughnut empire they have both built.

Iain said, "it has definitely been worth all the long hours."

Tantrum Doughnuts

Old Dumbarton Road,
Yorkhill,
Glasgow

orders@tantrumdoughnuts.com

• READ MORE: Scotland's larder Dr Robert Graham of Graham's The Family Dairy

Catriona is based in the Scottish Borders and works as part of the audiovisual team at the Scotsman but she reviews restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writes for Scotsman Food and Drink in her spare time.

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