Round the back of Bootstrap and Café OTO there’s a grey-blue shipping container where The Dusty Knuckle are turning sourdough to social gain. This compact bakery – selling some of the best sandwiches in the borough – was set up by Max Tobias and friends to help combat youth unemployment. Max explains that he always had breadmaking as a hobby, while working in schools, community centres and prisons in the field of violence prevention and conflict resolution. Becoming disillusioned with and emotionally exhausted by his work, Max felt that there were structural as well as emotional barriers standing between young people and work, and that without access to jobs their lives would not improve.
He initially started baking for events and weddings. And then a semi-joking business plan became a reality, and The Dusty Knuckle was born. The fledgling company won a competition run by Bootstrap to occupy the container, now fronted by flowers and upcycled tables and benches.
So far The Dusty Knuckle has given work experience to five young people, and employed two of them. The goal is to engage those far from employment, as well as people who are closer to the world of work but need accreditation.
Employees learn to bake a small range of mainly sourdough breads the old-fashioned way, with 48-hour fermentation, plus lots of care and attention. The resulting lunchtime sandwiches are sublime: try their roast aubergine, soft-boiled egg and tahini yoghurt option, or go for a chunky pork meatball sarnie.
Leavened with care and attention, this great little bakery is on the up. Three Hackney cheers to the Dusty Knuckle!
Dusty Knuckle, Abbot St, London E8 3DP