At a time when many boulangeries and patisseries are focusing on rustic, homemade fare, Text book Boulangerie Patisserieisre -writing the book, shining the spot light on technical, creative and visually stunning products.
In recent years, a definite trend has overtaken Australia’s baking
scene. The food is deceptively simple and rustic-looking while the spaces can,more often than not, be described as ‘industrial’or ‘retro’. However, a new addition to Sydney’s boulangerie/patisserie scene, is turning this trend on its head.
The brainchild of super duo Steve Anderson and John Ralley, Alexandria-based Textbook Patisserie only opened its doors last month. Nonetheless,it’s already cemented its name as a purveyor of exquisitely detailed fine pastries and handcrafted artisanal breads. Impressively, its distinctive style has been carefully translated to the design of the premises – a modern wood and white fitout with a stylish splash of orange.
The intention behind every aspect of Text book Patisserie is to exude a high quality ‘simple but smart’ feel. In keeping with this, the patisserie boasts just one single-storey, jewellery box shaped display cabinet made from white stone to showcase its prized wares, while interior seating for just 28 people ensures every customer gets the VIP treatment.
“We’ve gone for quite a clean feel. We’re not going for that industrial or old school look, because that doesn’t really fit with our vision for Textbook. We wanted a clean crisp look,” Steve says.
It’s fitting, considering the origin of the name.Back in 2001 when the two were starting outas apprentice pastry chefs, their head chef used to quip “textbook” when something was done well. It seems the phrase stuck, setting a high benchmark for both John and Steve,each gaining notoriety in their own right before regrouping with Text book Patisserie.
John, who sports a ‘Text book’ tattoo across his knuckles, headed overseas where he gained experience in fine dining plated desserts before returning home to a series of head pastry chef positions in acclaimed restaurants including Manta and Wildfire. He also made a name for himself making sugar and chocolate sculptures. Steve,on the other hand, explored the food science and semi-corporate side of the sector, including as technical advisor with Australian Bakels.
Once their paths crossed again, however, it was evident they had a recipe for success.
“One day I got Steve to do some bread for the restaurant I was working at and when that restaurant came to an end we just started talking about opening our own patisserie. He wanted to open a business and I wanted to open a business, so we thought ‘why not do this together?’,” John says.
Describing the Text book range as being “different, rather than unusual”, John, who was named as one of the top up-and-coming 38 pastry chefs in the world in Olivier Dupon’s book The New Patissiers, says his prime focus has been on creating products that push creative boundaries.
“The items will look really different to the original recipes. For instance, we’re doing an apple crumble that has all the components you’d find in an apple crumble without actually looking like one,” he says.
“For a long time people have used the word‘deconstructed’ – I guess we’re a bit more about reconstructing and modernising those classic flavours. We’re using everything available in terms of technology, moulds and ingredients to make our patisseries look really sensational.
“With the apple crumble, you still have the nice crunchy short pastry, the apple and the crumble,yet when you see it, it won’t look anything like you’d expect. However, when you close your eyes and take a bite, you’re taken back in time and you’re eating the apple crumble that mumor grandma used to make. We want people to go‘wow, how did that work?”
A core vienoisserie range of croissants, pain au chocolat, almond croissants and other danishes will also help to fill the display case, which will be offset by regularly changing seasonal and occasional ranges.
“People will beat the doors down if we don’t have those core items but, with the danish pastries for example, we’ll change it up by utilising some of the fruits that are coming into season,” Steve says.
“That’s something we’re really passionate about– and this goes for the entire vienoisserie and patisserie – when fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains are in season, we’ll use them. It’s important for us to do that because it helps keep it fresh and interesting for us and for the customers.”
“We’ll also make larger, six-inch gateaux that people can take away and cut up for the family,and we’ll take orders for special cakes,” John adds
The bread component at Textbook is created under Steve’s watchful eye and will focus on high quality household staples such as white sourdough,wholemeal, rye, grain, and seed options. But it’s the French baguette that is being heralded as Text book’s signature product.
“We’re trying to get the baguettes as close to the ones produced in France as possible. This means utilising what we have here,including a sour starter as well as a poolish to try and get those crust and crumb characteristics,” Steve says.
“Overall we really do try to draw on global influences. There are so many really great pastry cooks and bakers out there who are pushing the boundaries, so we’re taking snippets from all over the place and then putting our own spin on it.
“We’ve actually had a few discussions about what our ‘spin’ is, and it’s a bit difficult to pin down. Basically, if we think it looks cool,then we do it. If it makes us happy, we do it.”
Coming from diverse professional backgrounds, it could have been a challenging process to form a cohesive business framework.However, John and Steve are adamant this wasn’t the case when it came to creating Text book Patisserie. Rather, it’s proved to be a boon on every level from the initial creation of the product range to the patisserie’s overall business model.
“I’m more boulangerie and John’s more patisserie, but because John has delved into bread and my original background is patisserie, we can crossover. It just organically happens,” Steve says.
“John is in with me moulding bread so we’ve got time to get them all out and then we glaze the cakes together. We divide everything down a line so we can be across all the products.
“Having a clear idea of each person’s skills and responsibilities has also allowed us to build a business plan so it’s possible for one of us to step away, because at the end of the day, there’s life outside work.”
While it’s only early days for Text book Patisserie, the duo say they have already begun thinking about the next step.
“Our primary focus has, of course, been on opening and by the end of the year we’d love to have secured a really good local following and become the kind of place everyone wants to keep a secret because it’s ‘their place’,” Steve says.
“We’d also like to have a team of pastry cooks and apprentices with us that are very good so we can have the space to step back and see what’s next. Is there another location we could expand to? Could we hold masterclasses onsite? Do we shift our focus to sugar and chocolate sculptures?
“But most importantly we want to maintain our consistent product. That’s the key to our business – the key to any business really – and then it’s on wards and upwards from there.”