Engineer turned baker: Danish expat swaps lucrative career for bakery in Hua Hin

Image: Patrick Jacobs

Before the pandemic, life was very different for Danish expat Kjartan Hentze.

An experienced engineer of more than 20 years, Kjartan’s career working aboard fishing vessels took him all over the world.

A chief engineer with the highest certifications in marine and electrical engineering, he has worked across South America, Africa, Scandinavia and Europe in challenging conditions and environments.

Kjartan’s career and shift patterns – he often worked five weeks on and five weeks off – meant he was able to split his time between his work and Thailand.

Kjartan Hentze. Image: Patrick Jacobs

Over the past decade or so, he has helped to set up home with his wife Fon and their children, traveling back and forth between Hua Hin and his latest work posting.

Life had been going well.

Then Covid happened.

Almost overnight, Kjartan found that his work had come to an abrupt stop.

While there were some stints working overseas, each trip abroad meant that Kjartan was forced to spend time in quarantine both in the country he was entering for work and on his return to Thailand.

“It was after spending too much time in quarantine that I thought I needed a change”, Kjartan, who hails from the Faroe Islands, told Hua Hin Today.

It was around the same time that wife Fon told Kjartan she was thinking about opening a bakery and together they came up with the concept of Bakery Cafe 88 – a Danish inspired bakery located next to City 88 at the top end of Soi 88 in Thap Thai.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

The bakery, which opens daily from 7.30am, first fired up its ovens in April 2021 and now has six staff members, including trained chef Ice, who Kjartan said has been instrumental in helping to make the business run smoothly.

Despite having no experience of baking, Kjartan and Fon did have one thing very much in their favour.

Kjartan’s brother is a master baker back in his native Denmark and has been a useful source of all manner of baking related information, hints, tips and advice.

“It took about one month of trial and error to get the recipe for the rye bread just right”, Kjartan said.

“There were lots of calls back to my brother and I was able to pass on his advice to my wife and chef Ice,” Kjartan said.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

It was a similar story with the sourdough bread, taking time to perfect the recipe of what is now one of Bakery Cafe 88’s best sellers.

Other popular items include the korn pepp bread, Danish wiener stang and flodeboller – a sweet Chocolate-coated marshmallow treat that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other bakery in Hua Hin.

It is not only bread, pastries and desserts, Bakery Cafe 88 also sells a selection of cold cuts, homemade liver pate and Danish style hotdogs.

In fact, ‘hot dog Wednesday’s’ where customers receive a free soft drink with every hotdog order has proved very popular, Kjartan explained.

While baking is very different to his previous career, Kjartan he has been able to use some of his engineering expertise in the bakery.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

“Before the bakery was built I was able to offer some advice about the design and layout and give tips on how to improve the sound inside, so that there was not so much of an echo when people were talking”.

While Kjartan says he always has his engineering career to fall back on should the need arise, he is more than happy spending his time in Hua Hin supporting his wife in the running of Bakery Cafe 88.

“The lifestyle now compared to before is just so much better as I get to spend more time with my wife and children. There are some things in life that are more important than money or a big salary”, Kjartan said.

In addition to the location on Soi 88, Bakery Cafe 88 sells items from a mobile stall opposite Ban Khun Por market from 7am to 10am every day.

📱 Items can also be ordered via the Bakery 88 Facebook page

📍 Google Maps:

Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs