Going Wild about WILD HOLLY (It’s all about the pies…)

Cold winter days like today make me just want to snuggle up under a doona binge-watching TV series and eating comfort food.

Ah, comfort food – the stuff that takes us back to our childhood – when treats from the bakery were vanilla slices and jam tarts with not a sniff of salted caramel in sight. As for school lunches, it was a special day when you were allowed to order a basic meat pie for lunch. With tomato sauce, of course.

So you imagine my delight when daughter Veronica took up an apprenticeship this year at Brighton’s oldest bakery – WILD HOLLY. Now this is a store where baking traditionalists will be in pure heaven. It’s been running since 1937 and while much has changed over the years, what comes out of the kitchen still has lashings of good old-fashioned quality and style.

Come with me and I’ll take you on a trip down the foodie world’s memory lane. But be warned – you’ll be drooling.

Owner and head baker Brett O’Callaghan says WILD HOLLY is not only Brighton’s oldest bakery, but the second oldest business in the suburb overall. His father, Brian, began as an apprentice baker with the first owner, Mr Perry, as a teenager. No one can remember Mr Perry’s first name – apparently he was never called anything else.

Wild Holly Bakery in Brighton

Wild Holly Bakery in Brighton

While the shop has moved from several locations over the years, it’s been in its current position at 389 Bay Street, Brighton, for the past forty years. Brett has been at the helm for about ten years and we chatted about how the store has maintained its success.

JEN: I guess a lot of Wild Holly’s appeal comes from the fact that you still carry a lot of traditional cakes people can’t find anywhere else?

BRETT: Yes, we do a lot of older-style cakes, biscuits and pies – traditional stuff that we make on the premises. We make everything here. There’s only one biscuit we out-source and we make just under 200 lines.

Owner Brett O'Callaghan

Owner Brett O’Callaghan


















JEN: Wow – that’s a lot of cooking! How many staff do you have?

21st birthday Croquembouche cake

21st birthday Croquembouche cake

BRETT: We have eleven staff with four bakers out the back, including myself and the rest are shop staff. I trained under Dad. Left school and didn’t know what I wanted to do so Dad said, ‘You can’t be a bum and come and work for me.’ So I did and eventually fell in love with it. Did a four-year-apprenticeship then worked at several other places but came back and managed the shop for a couple of years with Dad but that caused a few hiccups because we had some different ideas about how to do things. Then I went and opened up my own bakery in Hampton for twelve years, then moved to Sydney for ten years then came back and bought this off my father and have been here ever since.

JEN: Was you Dad a hard taskmaster?

BRETT: Oh yes, he was. He had high standard and an ‘It’s my way or the highway’ work ethic. He was President of the Bakers Association of Australia and went overseas, representing Australia in various competitions. And he still offers advice.

JEN: What drew you back to the business?

BRETT: Basically dad was getting older and wanted to sell. I wanted to keep it going too so bought it from him and it’s been mine ever since.

JEN: Do you ever think about updating the style of cakes and pastries?

A delectable selection...

A delectable selection…

BRETT: I like to keep it as traditional as possible, using the recipes and the old-style way they’re made. We do make some new things – especially because of the cooking shows – and will give a few things a crack for a while but our clientele prefer the traditional stuff. The older-style biscuits are extremely popular. And the kids love the cupcakes and the older customers love the old-fashioned sponge cakes.

Popular Wild Holly biscuits

Popular Wild Holly biscuits

JEN: I love the cupcakes! Do you vary the designs?

BRETT: Yep, we do pigs and cats, frogs, faces. Easter we do little chickens and at Christmas we do reindeer and snowmen, then ghosts for Halloween, so there’s a bit of variety.

An assortment of cupcakes

An assortment of cupcakes

JEN: Christmas must be a busy time for you?

BRETT: Yes, we do Christmas puddings and cakes. We even started up Christmas cooking classes last year that were really popular, so we’ll start them up even earlier this year, around September or October.

JEN: How have your worked in such business for so many years with so much lovely food around you and not become fat?

Wild Holly is famous for its quality pies and sausage rolls

Wild Holly is famous for its quality pies and sausage rolls

BRETT: (laughs) Well I was very fat once, but decided I couldn’t go on like that so started physically training a lot – running and swimming and bike-riding – so that helped.

JEN: But do you still eat the cakes?

The cake Ronnie says she'll make for me one day!!

The cake Ronnie promises she’ll make for me one day!!

BRETT: Oh, yes, I have to. I need to try everything. I mean, if an apprentice puts too much salt in something – which doesn’t happen a lot – I need to know. So I need to check the flavours.

Of course Brett would NEVER be speaking about Veronica, because it seems likes she’s doing pretty well. Most importantly, she loves her work  – even though she starts before dawn. For us, it’s always a great day when she brings home extras to sample. Especially the meat pies! Now that’s something I can never say NO to.

Veronica and her pies

That’s my girl! Veronica and her pies

So there you have it. If you’re looking for some respite from all those high falutin cooking shows and fancy pants restaurants and are hankering for a taste of the best from yesteryear – now you know where to go. Yep, Wild Holly. Still serving it up as good as it was nearly eighty years ago. YUM!

FOR ENQUIRIES, PHONE WILD HOLLY ON 9596 4915 or visit the shop at 389 Bay Street, Brighton.

The Year That Was – the highs and lows of 2015

It’s always a nostalgic time. The last day of the year inevitably leads to reflection about the year that was – dreams won and shattered; friendships rekindled and lost; unexpected joys and tragic lows.

I know it hasn’t been a great year for many and I’ve also had my fair share of sad times, but I’m going to take pause to put on my Pollyanna hat for a moment and try and celebrate the highlights.

Before going down that path, I want to pay tribute to two people no longer with us. It’s my way of keeping their memory alive.

Rochelle and me

Rochelle and me

I can’t say ‘goodbye’ to 2015 without sharing one more memory of my dear friend, Rochelle. Her passing was such a massive shock and her loss has been so hard to come to terms with. That sadness will stay with me and our friends who all miss her so much, and will do for years to come. Only two years ago we had a New Year’s Eve party at our place and of course, karaoke was a part of the evening. Rochelle blew everyone out of the water with her version of the Adele song ‘Someone Like You.’ It was a heart-wrenching and poignant rendition and the only moment in the night where everyone stopped to listen. Singing was just one of her talents.


We thought about having another New Year’s Eve party this year but I’m not quite ready for that yet. Maybe next year.

Nic Jacobson

Nic Jacobson


And then for my son and his friends, just over a week after VCE exams finished, their schoolmate Nic Jacobson was tragically killed in a car accident. The school community rallied around Nic’s parents, Laurie and Jane and his sister Marni. Unspeakable sadness. Inexplicable loss and devastation. Tom had been at school with Nic from Prep through to Year 12. Our hearts go out to Nic’s family and you will forever be in our thoughts.



Before those tragedies, there were happy times. Afterwards too, although those days are also tinged with a sense of loss as you try to remember the special moments and be grateful for what was and then to live in the moment, knowing how precious and short life can be.

So for now, I’m going to focus on the highlights that made the year special – some planned, some unexpected – but all bringing light and some joy to temper the sadness. Here’s my Top Ten for 2015:

  1. Wedding Anniversary holiday on the Greek Islands. I Blogged about this so you can read back if you want to learn more!
  2. Drinking my Porn Star cocktail

    Drinking my Porn Star cocktail

2. Continuing to work at Smoothfm 91.5 with Mike Perso on the More Music Breakfast Show. 

Mike Perso and me

Mike Perso and me

3. Being nominated for an ACRA (Australian Commercial Radio Award). I didn’t win, but just to be nominated was a huge thrill.

The Smooth News team

The Smooth News team at the ACRAs

4. Fletch celebrating Neighbours 30th anniversary after starring on the show for 20 himself. That was one helluva party at the Carousel!

Fletch and me at Neighbours 30th party

Fletch and me at Neighbours 30th party

5. Daughter Ronnie starting out in the hospitality industry and doing really well. Now working at WILD HOLLY and loving it – although I don’t think she’s allowed to do THIS any more!

It all started with licking the bowl...

It all started with licking the bowl…

6. Starting back at the gym – training with Alinta and getting fit again.

Training with Alinta

Training with Alinta

7. Tom finishing Year 12 and doing brilliantly with his VCE score – not to mention winning the RUSDEN House leadership trophy… He says I shouldn’t mention this because it’s bragging but quite frankly, I don’t give a damn. WELL DONE TOM!

Tom's winning year

Tom’s winning year

8. Finishing my novel MAKING HEADLINES and preparing for next year’s book launch.

Making Headlines

Making Headlines


9. Performing at the Starry Night Ball with Fletch – helping to raise funds for the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation – and fitting into my silver hot pants – thanks to Alinta!

Starry Night ball

Starry Night ball

10. Ending the year by hosting a family Christmas at our house with everyone happy and healthy!

Our Christmas tree - mostly decorated by Ronnie!

Our Christmas tree – mostly decorated by Ronnie!

A testament to the great Christmas we had – I don’t even have one group photo because we were all having so much fun, no one remembered to take a picture or think about posting a social media snap even once. Now that’s living in the moment.