The phases of Lune

A for­mer de­signer of For­mula One rac­ing cars, Lune Crois­san­terie’s Kate Reid now goes full throt­tle at the busi­ness of bak­ing, writes Mag­gie Scardifield.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

From the world of For­mula One rac­ing to full-throt­tle bak­ing – meet Lune Crois­san­terie’s Kate Reid.

It’s 7.30 on

a win­ter’s morn­ing in Mel­bourne’s Fitzroy and there’s a long line of peo­ple queue­ing around a cor­ner. A sign fixed to the grey painted wall reads: “Please re­spect our neigh­bours and keep noise to a min­i­mum.” But these peo­ple aren’t wait­ing to get into a club. They’re here for pas­try. Wel­come to Lune, where lovers (and would-be lovers) of next-level crois­sants gather be­fore sun­rise to get their taste of what many con­sider to be Aus­tralia’s best baked goods.

There’s still half an hour un­til the doors open. Peo­ple read books, take self­ies, swap sto­ries and stand on tip­toes to catch a glimpse of Kate Reid and her team mak­ing magic.

But Reid prob­a­bly wouldn’t use the word “magic” her­self; if Lune crois­sants are mir­a­cles, they’re mir­a­cles of de­sign. This overnight sen­sa­tion was years in the mak­ing, and the road to suc­cess for Reid has been any­thing but di­rect.

Crois­sants were by no means Kate Reid’s first pas­sion. That was motorsports. Be­fore she launched Lune, she worked as an aero­dy­nam­i­cist for For­mula One team Williams. “I was on the front-end team,” she says. “We de­signed the front-wing end-plates, any fins or at­tach­ments to that end-plate, the front brake ducts, the nose cone and the en­gine in­take.”

Reid was 13 when she de­cided she wanted to work in For­mula One. “I was go­ing to be the first fe­male tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of an F1 team and live in the UK for the rest of my life,” she says. Af­ter com­plet­ing a five-year aero­space de­gree, and work­ing stints at Volk­swa­gen and Ford, she was ac­cepted to do a Mas­ters of Mo­tor­sport En­gi­neer­ing at Cran­field Univer­sity, an hour’s drive north of Lon­don. In a bid to make her­self “as stand­out as pos­si­ble”, Reid emailed a few teams in search of work ex­pe­ri­ence. “I didn’t re­ally ex­pect to hear back, but I woke up re­ally early to an email from the chief aero at Williams.” She was hired – not as an in­tern, but as their next ju­nior aero­dy­nam­i­cist.

Visit Lune’s head­quar­ters – a ware­house on Rose Street in Fitzroy – and you can see that Reid re­mains an en­gi­neer at heart. Ev­ery­thing, she says, is based on a set of rules and for­mu­las. All of Lune’s pas­try dough is worked within “the cube”, a six-me­tre-

square cli­mate-con­trolled glass room where bak­ers in white neck­ties knead, roll and wrap dough at a cen­tral black mar­ble counter.

The LED tube light­ing over­head and rock­ing playlist might be more rem­i­nis­cent of a bar than a bak­ery, but this is se­ri­ous stuff. The bak­ers make about 1,200 crois­sants a day – and for each of those 170 batches per week the tem­per­a­ture of ev­ery in­gre­di­ent is mea­sured and recorded, and the rest­ing times are ad­justed ac­cord­ing to those vari­ables. “When I was at Williams, ev­ery lit­tle change made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to the per­for­mance of the car,” says Reid. “It’s the same with crois­sants.”

That at­ten­tion to de­tail has paid off: last year The New York Times de­scribed Lune’s clas­sic beurre crois­sant as per­haps “the finest you will find any­where in the world”, and even five years af­ter launch­ing, folks still queue. The shards of pas­try seem crisper than most crois­sants – but­tery, the colour of bit­ter caramel, and sweet but with­out the bready mouth­feel. They shat­ter in a way that makes you hope and pray Lune will start sell­ing the flakes just as old-school ice-cream­eries once did with bro­ken waf­fle cones. Reid at­tributes this to Lune’s unique com­bi­na­tion of turns, the se­ries of folds made to the pas­try be­fore prov­ing and bak­ing. The dough is lam­i­nated by be­ing spread with but­ter and folded in thirds like a busi­ness let­ter a num­ber of times, but Reid does this fewer times than is tra­di­tional.

“With that style you ac­tu­ally get more lay­ers than with the com­bi­na­tion of turns we use,” says Reid. “I find that with slightly fewer lay­ers you get that lovely crunch and the big flakes, with a feath­ery, soft in­te­rior.”

Af­ter three years at Williams, Reid de­cided to change lanes and leave the trade; it just didn’t quite mea­sure up to the 10 years of ex­pec­ta­tion.

“The job wasn’t at all what I’d imag­ined,” she says. “That’s con­fronting when you’re a bit of a con­trol freak and you’ve planned your en­tire life around some­thing.”

What For­mula One did in­tro­duce her to, how­ever, was Paris and, more specif­i­cally, the world of Vi­en­nois­erie. “I had to travel to France quite a lot to be closer to the teams,”>

she says. “I re­mem­ber fondly the rou­tine of stop­ping for a crois­sant and cof­fee in the morn­ing. It wasn’t just a muf­fin or some­thing quite sim­ple to make. Crois­sants seemed quite tech­ni­cal to me.”

In 2010 a glance at cof­fee-ta­ble book on French pâtis­series, and in par­tic­u­lar a dou­ble-page photo of pain au choco­lat – “so per­fectly stacked-up and zoomed-in that you could see ev­ery per­fect layer” – in­spired Reid to book an im­promptu ticket to Paris. When she got there she went search­ing for the pas­tries; they were from Du Pain et des Idées, a small bak­ery in the 10th ar­rondisse­ment run by award-win­ning baker Christophe Vasseur. “It was ev­ery­thing that I’d imag­ined and more,” says Reid.

The visit to Du Pain et des Idées set Reid’s next big move into gear: she would be­come a baker. In 2011 she re­turned to Paris for an ap­pren­tice­ship with Vasseur and spent 10 hours a day for the next two months learn­ing Vi­en­nois­erie. The sky-blue cor­ner bak­ery, with its painted glass ceil­ing and gold let­ter­ing, opened in 2002 in a re­stored 19th-cen­tury build­ing. The light bounces off mir­rored walls and Ver­sail­lesstyle cab­i­nets, and the front windows are filled with vin­tage bis­cuit tins and tow­er­ing piles of sour­dough baguette and the house spe­cialty, a nutty fo­cac­cia-like bread called pain des amis. Round plat­ters of chaus­sons aux pomme, pain choco­lat-ba­nane and fresh fruit es­car­gots sit be­hind tall glass cases like pre­cious jewellery.

“It was like liv­ing in a movie,” says Reid. “I’d walk to work at six in the morn­ing and the whole city would be glow­ing gold and smelt of but­ter. For­mula One was amaz­ing, but noth­ing com­pares to the ex­pe­ri­ences

I’ve had with bak­ing.”

There were other dis­cov­er­ies in Paris, too, in­clud­ing the kouign-amann, which Reid first no­ticed at the boulan­gerie around the cor­ner from her lo­cal laun­dro­mat.

“I had eyed it off for the first cou­ple of weeks and then I built up the courage to ask the ladies what it was,” she says. Now the Bre­ton pas­try is a cel­e­brated part of the

Lune reper­toire.

Af­ter re­turn­ing from France in 2011, Reid landed a small shopfront in El­wood, just south of Mel­bourne’s CBD. She moved in up­stairs and would bake into the night, then de­liver the pas­tries to espresso bars such as Cle­ment, Ev­ery­day Cof­fee and Pa­tri­cia in the morn­ing. “Mel­bourne has such good espresso bars but not one of them at that time had that per­fect com­ple­ment of a re­ally good crois­sant,” she says. De­spite her in­ten­tions for a mod­est whole­sale busi­ness, it wasn’t long be­fore peo­ple came look­ing for her crois­sants straight from the oven.

In 2013, Reid’s brother Cameron joined Lune as co-owner, and in 2015 the pair moved the op­er­a­tion to the much larger ware­house space in Fitzroy. These days wait times (which can eas­ily run to more than half an hour) are soon for­got­ten when a box of ham and Swiss Gruyère crois­sants, pain au choco­lat, cruffins (a Lune cre­ation), or the beurre-style sig­na­ture is handed over.

Ev­ery­thing is made with top-shelf in­gre­di­ents: free-range Villa Verde eggs, Laucke flour, Sun­gold Jersey milk, and two

“For­mula One was amaz­ing, but noth­ing com­pares to the ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had with bak­ing.”

dif­fer­ent kinds of but­ter, Pepe Saya for the dough and Beurre d’Isigny from France for lam­i­nat­ing. The meat for the Reuben, and ham and cheese crois­sants is from An­drew McCon­nell’s luxed-up butcher, Meat­smith, just around the cor­ner. Then there’s the

Lune Lab where cus­tomers can try the lat­est Lune ex­per­i­ments – mille­feuille filled with roasted pear, whipped caramelised white-choco­late and thyme, say, or a York­shire pud­ding-style Dan­ish with rare beef, mush­room dux­elles, peas and gravy. The labs sell out months in ad­vance.

Reid hasn’t stopped at baked goods, ei­ther – she’s gain­ing speed in the tech space. In March she launched Supp, a free app to help hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses fill shifts last minute and for restau­rant and café pro­fes­sion­als to find ca­sual work. She has had her fair share of staff call­ing in sick or chang­ing shifts at the 11th hour. “There are only so many peo­ple in your per­sonal net­work and only so many friends you can call on for favours,” she says, “but when we started us­ing Supp we’d have some­one stand­ing at the counter, the cof­fee ma­chine or the kitchen sink within an hour.”

Work­ers can spec­ify their min­i­mum hourly rate on the app and set pref­er­ences for lo­ca­tions, avail­abil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence. Em­ploy­ers can ad­just their pa­ram­e­ters, too, and both par­ties are rated at the end of a shift. “The whole plat­form works off rep­u­ta­tion and con­nec­tions,” says Reid.

The app is also about en­sur­ing a bet­ter work­place. “We’ve ap­proached a lot of busi­nesses and found that they’re pay­ing kitchen­hands $15 an hour. We won’t sign them. We want to en­sure a happy, safe and le­gal work­place, and push other busi­nesses to do that as well.”

More than a thou­sand work­ers and over 200 busi­nesses use the plat­form. “We’re fo­cus­ing on the up­per-end of hos­pi­tal­ity in in­ner-city Mel­bourne to start so we grow from a po­si­tion of qual­ity and strength,” says Reid. Top Mel­bourne cafés in­clud­ing Higher Ground, St Ali, Tivoli Road, The Ket­tle

Black and Top Pad­dock use the app, as do restau­rants Lûmé, Pope Joan and En­trecôte. “This in­dus­try is hard work but it’s re­fresh­ing to see some­one like Kate us­ing her skills and knowl­edge to think out­side the box,” says Shaun Quade, chef and owner of Lûmé. “It makes it just that lit­tle bit eas­ier for us all.”

Not ev­ery Supp worker who picks up a shift at Lune will be al­lowed in the cube, though. “The dough recipe is pretty highly regarded and kept un­der wraps,” she says. “You have to spend time show­ing us that you’re com­mit­ted.”

Reid is now scout­ing for a Lune site in Mel­bourne’s CBD. The raw pas­try will still be worked in Fitzroy, but the pared-back “satel­lite” will prove the crois­sants and bake them fresh on site. She also en­vis­ages that once they’ve built a strong frame­work for Supp in Mel­bourne, they’ll ex­pand to other states and pitch it over­seas.

An en­gi­neer, ac­cord­ing to Reid, will never de­sign some­thing once and be done with it – they have a base­line and then start look­ing at what hap­pens if one vari­able is changed. “Does it im­prove?” she says. “If it doesn’t, I’ll go back to the base­line and try some­thing else. And I’ll keep go­ing and go­ing un­til it gets bet­ter.”

LUNE LAND­SCAPE From left: in­side the cube; the bak­ery op­er­ates in a con­verted ware­house space.

LUNE FRINGE From top: a Lune half-dozen; over a thou­sand crois­sants are made daily; Lune ad­dicts line up for their pas­try fix. Op­po­site: in­side Lune; founder Kate Reid.

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