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Stethoscope or a Rolling Pin? Why a Medicine Student Dropped Out to Become a Baker

Former university student and micro-bakery co-founder Carol Puthussery had been preparing for a career in medicine since she was in her early teens.

But everything changed when, mid-way through her second year at St Andrews, she decided to ditch her stethoscope for a rolling pin. After taking a leave of absence to help found a student-run baking collective, she dropped out to become head baker at Brunswick East in Dalston, London.

“Since I was 14, I committed my life to studying medicine,” Puthussery said. “The thought of having a career which was reliable was such a sexy thing…but quite quickly, I knew I had to quit.”

Puthussery originally thought she “definitely, definitely wanted to be a doctor.” But baking in her University accommodation was an outlet, especially after starting at the University during the toils of COVID regulation. It was an escape from online lectures and the reality that socialising was, on the whole, illegal.

But eventually, baking couldn’t just be a distraction. While studying medicine, she was whisking herself to somewhere she didn’t want to be. Struggling with the pressures of academic commitments, something needed to change to get her mojo back.

During reading week, Puthussery and her friend Sydney—who would also decide to drop out and follow her dreams as an artist—went to Morocco. It was there that Puthussery realised the prospect of a career in medicine didn’t cut the biscuit. She loved baking and cooking.

She felt a leave of absence was necessary. It would give her time to breathe and knead, she thought.

“I am now a massive advocate for taking a leave of absence,” Puthussery said. “It is the best soft launch to actually dropping out”.

But this wasn’t an easy pill for her parents to swallow. They’d always know their daughter as an aspiring doctor, she said.

“It must have been difficult for them. They were really good…they had a daughter who had seemingly been on one track for so many years,” she said. “ Suddenly going to them and explaining how I may have changed my mind must have been a shock.”

Having made great friends at University, Puthussery told me that she spent two months mulling over what was next. Noticing that she was at a low ebb, fellow baker buddy and student, Jennie Wang had sent a simple message to Puthussery saying, “micro-bakery?”

Noticing a gap in the market, the two women realised that St Andrews was a hot spot for creativity, and perhaps forming a micro-baking collective would be a good pick-me-up!

“St Andrews is such a unique space where you can kind of just fuck around, and do other things,” Puthussery said. “Because of the size and scale you can do things fairly easily…we ‘pomodoro ‘method-ed’ it,” referring to the art of quick fire brainstorming with regimented intervals.

This intense brainstorm led to the two women targeting flour-fingered enthusiasts Addie Crosby and Calypso Paisley. They needed a team to achieve their baking endeavours. “Oh, we just ambushed them,” Puthussery said.

To Wang and Puthussery’s surprise, the team of two became four and everyone was on board. With an extra baker’s dozen of friends supporting, and a quirky logo to match, the wittily named ‘Morning After Provisions’ was proved and taken out the oven of imagination.

Hearing the smile in her voice, Puthussery described how everything had moved quickly and was put in fruition. They had their first Morning After Provisions drop in May 2022 and sold out immediately. Helping to create the micro-bakery is what drove Puthussery to pursue her career in the food industry. It is also what she believes landed her a job at the leading bakery in London. Puthussery hoped that perhaps everyday life could be like the excitement of baking for St Andrews students.

With a little convincing from P-aisley and support from the University, the leave of absence became permanent, and Puthussery started to email as many bakeries as she could think of. Well, ones that did not require experience at culinary school.

All her work experience previously had been medicine related. She had no culinary school qualifications and had no experience other than cooking with her Dad at home. Morning After Provisions helped her to build up a portfolio.

“In every one of my messages to bakeries I told them I would do anything… wash dishes, work front of house,” she said. “I just wanted to be there in some capacity.”

Hoping this would lead to role progression, Puthussery was shocked with the support she received from bakeries across London. Everyone got back to her quickly and wanted to know all about the micro-bakery she had helped to create.

Having received offers from nearly all of the companies she applied to, Puthussery illustrated how thankful she had been to the sister-owned Brunswick East, who had taken a gamble in hiring her.

“It was very, very, very surreal,” Puthussery said. She described how she still has to pinch herself because of the pace at which everything happened. Puthussery began working at Brunswick in September of last year and by November had been promoted to head-baker.

Even with one of their key members out of town, the hype surrounding Morning After Provisions has not diminished. Last year, Crosby was the only baker left in St Andrews for the full year. Both Paisley and Wang had respectively taken some time abroad in California and Denmark, but this had not deterred a second drop.

In preparation for their second release date, Wang flew back from Denmark to be in town for a few days. Meanwhile, Paisley and Puthussery had been remotely preparing and testing recipes that friends would be able to recreate back in Scotland.

More recently, The Morning After Provisions team collaborated with The Tree—a food network which allows students to order items locally sourced in Scotland. With the likes of almond-rhubarb galette and bramble-apple buns, even in the rain the sale was a sweet success.

Puthussery wanted to note that despite not considering herself an alumni (because of the short time she was here), the town hosts partial testimony to her later success, and she is grateful for everything it had to offer.

The women of Morning After Provisions are set to host their next drop shortly. Catering for the vegan and gluten free amongst us, their delights last Tuesday included spelt-spice yoghurt loaf with cashew-rooibos cream as well as fife blackcurrant and lemon scones (with local blackcurrants, naturally). Keep your eyes peeled and your taste buds ready for what they have in store—or outside the Union—next.

Puthussery recollected that she, “would love to have an undergraduate degree at some point in her life,” but, she added, “right now it’s not the right fit.” Living debt free, and playing a key role at a woman-led bakery is not something Puthussery regrets.

Illustration by Morning After Provisions.

Correction: The print version of this article included an illustration that misrepresented its subject. It has since been retracted.

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