KATE REID BAKER
The Newyorktimes called it first. Lune, a bakery in Melbourne, is turning out the best croissants in the world. Queues to taste one of the flaky, golden creations snaked around the corner of a Fitzroy warehouse each morning, despite the reliably unforgiving Melburnian weather. More extraordinary than the devotion of the fans and the hailstorm of media attention was the story of the woman behind the baking. Kate Reid was 13 when she decided she wanted to be an engineer; more specifically, she wanted to be the first female technical director of a Formula One racing team. She completed a five-year aerospace degree and worked stints at Volkswagen and Ford before accepting a role as a junior aerodynamicist at Williams F1 in the UK. But Kate was confronted with a harsh reality: after years of hard work and single-minded devotion to achieving her career goals, she realised her dream job was not as fulfilling as she had hoped. She found the work intense, isolating, repetitive and almost completely devoid of the creativity and team camaraderie she had imagined.
Much has been written about her journey from here to starting Lune Croissanterie in 2012, but what most profiles neglect to mention is the tremendous emotional and physical battle she fought to get there. Kate’s unhappiness at work and the disintegration of her childhood dream led to a deep and debilitating depression. She began to fixate on her weight, the only thing she could control, and commenced a serious and scarring battle with anorexia nervosa.
After four difficult years and a period at home with her family, Kate’s journey to recovery began with working a few hours a day making cakes and pastries at a local cafe. It was during this period that her Sliding Doors moment happened. One afternoon, after finishing her shift, she found herself at home with a new coffee-table book about Parisian patisseries. She opened the book to a double-page photo of a stack of pains au chocolat at Parisian boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées. Hypnotised by their perfection, she closed the book, walked to the travel agent and booked a ticket to Paris.
You might say the rest is history, but Kate’s journey from that moment is extraordinary in every way. A formally untrained baker, she nevertheless secured an apprenticeship at Du Pain et des Idées and learnt the craft. Back at home, she took the technical skills from her background in engineering and used them to elevate what she’d learnt. Initially baking and selling from a tiny shopfront, she immediately cut a swathe through the noisy Melbourne food scene. And those long queues began to form.
Kate is not only a visionary, she’s also a pioneer, an innovator and, more than anything else, a warrior. She trampled and conquered her demons and found sweet and spectacular success along the way.
Sarah Oakes is editor of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
KATE REID wears Scanlan Theodore jumpsuit, $550; Stuart Weitzman shoes, $695; her own necklace. BEAUTY NOTE: Estée Lauder Little Black Primer mascara.