FOR­MULA LUNE

FROM DE­SIGN­ING RAC­ING CARS TO MAK­ING CROIS­SANTS SEEMS LIKE A JAGGED TRA­JEC­TORY, BUT KATE REID’S EN­GI­NEER­ING MIND HAS HELPED HER BE­COME ONE OF THE MOST AC­CLAIMED PATISSIERS IN THE WORLD.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - STORY MILANDA ROUT K PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JU­LIAN KINGMA

Kate Reid is the maker of the best crois­sants in the world. So says The New York Times and the peo­ple who have queued from 2.30am in the mid­dle of a bleak Mel­bourne win­ter to get their hands on the but­tery morsels. But that is not the most re­mark­able thing about Reid; it is how she came to make such crois­sants. For Reid is not only a baker, she is an aerospace en­gi­neer who once de­signed For­mula One cars for Wil­liams, and she is also a re­cov­ered anorexic.

Reid be­came “re­ally, re­ally sick” when it dawned on her spend­ing 16-18 hours a day on a com­puter in the Wil­liams of­fice in the English Mid­lands was not the job she had been dream­ing of since she was 12. “I thought I had my whole life mapped out but it wasn’t quite what I thought it was go­ing to be so it sent me into a bit of a tail­spin,” she says. “I felt like my life was out of con­trol be­cause of the de­ci­sions I’d made, so I started to con­trol my eat­ing and ex­er­cise. I de­vel­oped se­vere anorexia.”

This was early 2008. Reid got sicker and sicker un­til her Dad flew to Lon­don and brought her home to Mel­bourne. “I think, in a sense, get­ting sick was one of the best things that ever hap­pened to me,” Reid tells WISH. “It stripped away ev­ery­thing that I knew and made me start from scratch. I am a pretty stub­born per­son and I don’t like to quit. And one of the hard­est things for me to deal with when I first came back from the UK was the feel­ing that I had failed, I had quit, I had given up.

“Even in my very dark days, I might not have ever given up if it hadn’t been for my Dad com­ing to get me. Some­body had to take that de­ci­sion out of my hands. If had not got­ten as sick as I did, I may have tried to stick it out to prove my­self that I could over­come my feel­ings of not lov­ing it be­cause I worked so hard to get there.”

Reid is talk­ing to WISH in her car out­side the Fitzroy ware­house where Lune Crois­san­terie is housed. It is so busy on this Mon­day, pretty much like every day, that Reid has re­treated to her car for a bit of quiet so she can do the in­ter­view. She also im­me­di­ately apol­o­gises for any “stum­bling over her words” be­cause she had an un­usu­ally late night last night (by the way, she doesn’t stum­ble over any of her words). That’s be­cause the New Zealand-born Grammy-Award win­ning pop­star Lorde in­vited her to see her con­cert after seek­ing out some of Reid’s crois­sants. “Lorde’s tour man­ager came into Lune and said all that Lorde wanted while she was in Mel­bourne were Lune crois­sants be­cause she is a big fan,” Reid says, still quite not be­liev­ing it her­self. “I thought how does she even know about us? [My brother] Cam and I used to lis­ten to Lorde when we were based in El­wood, our first shop, at 3.30am when we were prep­ping and it was just the al­bum we would put on every morn­ing.”

It is al­most 10 years since Reid landed back in Aus­tralia, her dreams in tat­ters and her health in an even worse state. She spent those early days see­ing no fewer than four med­i­cal spe­cial­ists a week to help her get well; a psychologist, a GP, a psy­chi­a­trist and a di­eti­tian. Reid wanted to work again and she de­cided she wanted a job at a bak­ery – of all places. While work­ing for Wil­liams and go­ing to France for meet­ings (aero­dy­nam­i­cists did not get the glam­our of hang­ing out track­side), she had de­vel­oped a se­ri­ous pas­sion for crois­sants. “I would know how many calo­ries they were so I would plan my whole day around be­ing able to have one be­cause I just started to love them so much,” she says. “So when I came back to Aus­tralia – ac­tu­ally I’d only been back two or three days – I thought ‘I re­ally want to work in a bak­ery’.”

So Reid started be­hind the counter at Philippa’s in

Ar­madale in Mel­bourne’s in­ner east. She loved it im­me­di­ately even though it was a form of tor­ture for her. “To be hon­est it was hell as well be­cause just hav­ing ac­cess to all the food, there was that con­flict again,” she ad­mits. “But I did love it. The only thing I didn’t like was that I wasn’t ac­tu­ally mak­ing the prod­ucts we were sell­ing. It was a good in­di­ca­tion to me that it may be some­thing worth pur­su­ing.”

In the end, she was too sick to do the long hours they needed at Philippa’s so she worked at an­other lo­cal café, run by a very sup­port­ive hus­band and wife, do­ing three to four hours a day, this time mak­ing the cakes and pas­tries. It was there that she started to get bet­ter and be­gan learn­ing to love food again.

“I think it was in July of that year, which was 2009, that I bor­rowed this book from the lo­cal li­brary about Paris patis­series. I ran­domly opened it up and there was a dou­ble-page photo of a whole lot of pains au cho­co­lat stacked up on top of each other. Every sin­gle layer was so de­fined and per­fect,” Reid tells WISH. “It sounds ridiculous but I lit­er­ally closed the book and got in the car and went up to Flight Cen­tre in Cam­ber­well and booked my­self a flight to Paris.”

That patisserie was Du Pain et des Idées, in the 10th ar­rondisse­ment, and run by baker Christophe Vasseur. When Reid fi­nally landed in the French cap­i­tal and walked in, her ex­pec­ta­tions were met: she saw dozens of dif­fer­ent types of pas­tries, loaves of bread and of course, the pains au cho­co­lat that started her on this quest in the first place. She stood there in the patisserie, so dumb­struck that a staff mem­ber came over laugh­ing to see if she could help. Next thing she knew she was telling Vasseur in bro­ken French how she had trav­elled all this way thanks to a mouth-wa­ter­ing pho­to­graph in a book, and a few days later, over email, she was cheek­ily/ bravely ask­ing to be his ap­pren­tice.

“He wrote back to me within the hour and said ‘look, we don’t nor­mally take ap­pren­tices, es­pe­cially peo­ple who don’t speak French, but I can see the same pas­sion in you that was in me. When would you like to start?’” re­calls Reid. So she was back on a plane in the fol­low­ing Fe­bru­ary to work for him for two months. It was there that she found her place – the com­plete op­po­site of what she felt work­ing in For­mula One. “It was like find­ing the per­fect dress that just fits every curve of you,” Reid says. “Be­ing a pas­try chef al­ways felt like: this is what I sup­posed to do. Now some­times I walk around Lune and I feel like the most con­fi­dent ver­sion of my­self that ever ex­isted.”

When Reid re­turned home she spent her every day off hunt­ing for crois­sants like the ones she had tasted and learnt to make at Du Pain, but had no luck. “I be­came the ex­pert of lit­tle bak­eries all around Mel­bourne and I just couldn’t find any crois­sants that I liked,” she says. “It then dawned on me, well, maybe I’ve got the skill. Mel­bourne has the most amaz­ing cof­fee shops and lit­tle espresso bars and I want those places to have amaz­ing pas­tries. Maybe I could make those pas­tries and sup­ply them to those bars? That is how the idea for Lune started.”

Reid se­cured a site in El­wood, her Dad helped her

“I closed the book and got in the car and went up to Flight Cen­tre and booked my­self a flight to Paris.”

gut the kitchen and she bought the equip­ment she needed. She then spent the next few months mak­ing batch after batch after batch of crois­sants un­til she got it right. “I re­alised I knew about 15 per cent of what I ac­tu­ally needed to know,” she says. “So in­stead of go­ing to pas­try school or get­ting an ap­pren­tice­ship, I just saw it as a mat­ter of trial and er­ror. I treated it like an en­gi­neer­ing project and I fig­ured out a way to do it.”

She made and de­liv­ered her first batch to a café run by her brother, Cameron, who had man­aged cafes and bars for a num­ber of years. Reid cut them like tra­di­tional French crois­sants at Du Pain, which meant they were smaller than a stan­dard Aus­tralian crois­sant. “I re­mem­ber walk­ing in with them and Cam’s busi­ness part­ner go­ing ‘these are way too small’,” she says. “And I said ‘that’s what size they are in France’ and he said, ‘well, Kate, we are not in France’.”

To her credit, and hav­ing bought and mea­sured crois­sants from al­most every bak­ery in Mel­bourne (that would be the sci­en­tific part of Reid at play), she stuck to her guns and de­cided to keep her pas­tries smaller. She be­gan sell­ing the crois­sants to a hole-in-the-wall café called Cle­ment Cof­fee run by Kris Wood at South Mel­bourne Mar­kets after turn­ing up ran­domly with a box of crois­sants one day.

“He took one bite and looked at me and said ‘when can you start de­liv­er­ing these?’” That was the start of 2012. Within weeks, Reid was sell­ing to more cafes and peo­ple be­gan queu­ing at those cafes each morn­ing to get her crois­sants. She was do­ing crazy hours but could not keep up with de­mand. Reid was still bat­tling anorexia and the ex­haus­tion didn’t help. She stopped, flew to Paris for a break and came back with the re­al­i­sa­tion that she wanted to open her own bak­ery.

Reid called Cameron the night she re­turned and told him she wanted to open her own re­tail busi­ness but did not know how, while he had years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Would he come on board? Cameron said yes and they added a counter to her 20sqm kitchen in El­wood. They opened in De­cem­ber 2013. By Jan­uary peo­ple had be­gun queue­ing for the goods. The queues at first started at 6am but then it was 4am and 2.30am.

“Quite of­ten when we would open the win­dow at 6.30am there would be 100 peo­ple in the queue,” she re­calls. “Lune is an amaz­ing, es­tab­lished, qual­ity busi­ness now but noth­ing for me will ever beat those in­sane days of El­wood.” It was dur­ing these days that Reid stopped think­ing like an anorexic. She loved food again and she also loved what she was do­ing. “There just wasn’t room for it in my life any more,” she says. At this time, Reid and her brother were do­ing 80 hours a week but still not pro­duc­ing enough crois­sants to meet de­mand. So the pair de­cided to go into busi­ness with café/cof­fee guru Nathan Tole­man (who runs Top Pad­dock and The Ket­tle Black in Mel­bourne) and who had a ware­house in Fitzroy he was not us­ing. “He made us an of­fer to buy a mi­nor­ity share in Lune so we got Nathan and we got 119 Rose Street which was a pretty ex­cel­lent deal,” she says.

It was a big leap go­ing from a kitchen in El­wood to a 440sqm ware­house in Fitzroy. But Reid em­braced the space and con­structed a gi­ant glass cube in the mid­dle to make the crois­sants. It not only looks in­cred­i­ble but also al­lows Reid to con­trol hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture to en­sure the best bak­ing con­di­tions. Lune in Fitzroy opened in Oc­to­ber 2015 and The New York Times pub­lished a story the fol­low­ing April head­lined “Is the World’s Best Crois­sant Made in Aus­tralia?” in which writer Oliver Strand con­cluded Reid’s crois­sants “may be the finest you will find any­where in the wold, and alone worth a trip across the date­line”. Reid and her brother were al­ready strug­gling to keep up with de­mand, but after the story came out it went from the ridiculous to the to­tally in­sane: their ever-present queue wrapped around two cor­ners of the block.

The pair now have 27 staff (in­clud­ing 14 pas­try chefs). Reid is look­ing at open­ing a small store in Mel­bourne’s CBD and she has a “bit of a pipe dream” to open a Lune Crois­san­terie in New York. It has been some jour­ney for the now 34-year-old – who de­scribes her­self as be­ing “100 per cent re­cov­ered” from anorexia – and one that she still quite doesn’t be­lieve. “I would have been ren­dered speech­less,” she says, if some­one had sug­gested to her a decade ago that she would be where she is to­day. “I prob­a­bly would have laughed at them.”

“Quite of­ten when we would open the win­dow at 6.30am there would be 100 peo­ple in the queue.”

Kate Reid in her crois­san­terie Lune in Fitzroy, Mel­bourne

Reid works in a glass cube to con­trol hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture; be­low, ham and cheese crois­sants, and fin­ished prod­ucts

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