It took travelling half-way around the world for two European bakers to connect and start a business in sunny Brisbane. Although Steven Chevalier and Marco Conti had to contend with floodwaters to get things started, their business, Doughcraft, has gone from strength to strength since.
“We met at Jocelyn’s Provisions,” Steven recalled.
“I was the head baker there when Marco joined the team. We ended up working long shifts overnight and quickly became good friends because of our passion for making bread and our dedication to the craft.”
Steven’s partner Salvatore Compagnone, an animation director with a background in marketing, quickly saw the potential in the business idea.
“We started hanging out a lot. I knew Steven had always dreamt of having his own bakery. It was a no brainer, and I could visualise the whole brand,” he said.
Fortunately, Marco knew James Rennell the owner of Craft’d Grounds, the new collaborative space in Albion, Brisbane, where Doughcraft was quickly installed.
And so began Doughcraft.
After opening on Mother’s Day this year, they hit a major snag in the form of the floods that plagued South-East Queensland in February.
“The floods happened when we were about to open. That made it a bit hard, because the building was affected. The lift was damaged, so we had to carry the equipment up the stairs or use special cranes,” said Marco.
Steven added, “We opened slowly, because we didn’t have a proper oven in the upstairs kitchen. So, we just started small, doing little things with the tiny oven downstairs.”
Since hitting that snag, Doughcraft has been able to get fully up and running, with the upstairs kitchen now fully outfitted.
“We’re getting busier every week. People are slowly becoming regular clients. We’re always trying to bring out new products—every week we bring something new to the table. It keeps things interesting, and we keep challenging ourselves” said Steven.
For both Marco and Steven, inspiration for new products comes from everywhere.
“It is a spur of the moment kind of thing,” said Marco, whose baking style Steven describes as ‘free’.
“Whatever pops into my head, I just write it down. All the ideas that I’ve collected through the years are implemented in the menu, and they keep changing from putting an eggplant parmigiana inside a Danish to a simple ‘nduja focaccia,” said Marco.
The seasons also influence what will feature on Doughcraft’s menu.
Marco said, “In the end, if there’s something I don’t have that day, I might just use something else and play around with it.”
For Steven, a major focus is on the ingredients and the processes, making sure that everything is organic and of the highest quality—staying true to the French mastery, but adding a his own twist. He aims to ensure that Doughcraft’s products will be able to be consumed by the gluten intolerant.
Despite only being open for six months, the guys are already planning what’s next for the bakery.
Marco said, “Our plan is to start opening up in the evenings. We used to when we first started, just to give it a go—cheese boards, charcuterie boards, some other bar snacks. We were busy… we found ourselves a bit short—not enough hands,” he continued.
It’s all mapped out for when they decide to extend their opening hours, Marco told me.
“It will be a different menu. Obviously still some sandwiches and breads, some pastries. But we want to try to do something a bit more elevated as well, while also selling wine.”
Although Steven and Marco share a deep passion for the work they both do, they’ve taken different journeys to get where they are.
“I’m from Normandy, France,” Steven told me.
“I come from a family of bakers and pastry chefs on my mother’s side. So I grew up in this environment. I left France when I was 18, working for top bakeries around the world,” he reminisced.
Steven’s family in France is immensely proud of the work he has done since leaving.
Marco’s background is a little less baking-heavy, but he has always been around food.
“I was born in Sardinia, in Italy. My mum is Australian, but I grew up with my father’s family in the Mediterranean —very Sardinian, very old school,” he said.
“So, I grew up making wine, olive oil. I was always around food and pasta—my grandparents were always cooking. I guess I’ve always been around food. My father owns a bar, so hospitality is in my blood.”
Although Marco originally started out working as a chef, he gravitated towards bread.
“I wanted to focus more on the bread. There’s nothing that I don’t eat without bread—I always need to have bread on the table.”
This love of bread led him to baking, which led him to Steven, and hence to Doughcraft.
A major focus of the business is using quality produce that isn’t too processed.
“It’s very important for us to use very good ingredients,” says Steven.
One of the current weekend staples at Doughcraft is a bread made from kamut flour, an organic flour made from an ancient grain that is easier to digest than other flours. Steven orders this flour specially and is the only one on his distributor’s list who currently buys it.
He said, “They get it especially for me. It’s a bit more expensive, but it was important for me to have it. I really wanted to have my kamut. For some people who cannot digest white bread, it’s very good to have the possibility to still have bread.”
“I saw a famous baker that I follow on Instagram say ‘The future of bread lies in its past’,” Marco said.
“The way they used to make bread in ancient times, the style with the levain, old school—that’s the way to make it healthy. If you buy it from the shops, you get something cheap, but it’s not healthy for you,” he continued.
This is what Doughcraft is trying to combat, while also educating people about what they put into their bodies.
But this isn’t Doughcraft’s only point of difference. Something else they specialise in is their viennoiseries, especially their savoury Danishes.
Steven explained, “We do savoury Danishes—you don’t find many in Brisbane. The secret is in the dough and how it balances out with what we fill it with.”
Marco continued, “It’s like having a complete dish inside a Danish. For example, the top-seller at the moment has bechamel on the bottom, then a potato veloute, crispy pancetta, and parsley. It’s very creamy, and there’s confit garlic in the veloute.”
They also make raised focaccia buns, taking a step back from the traditional flat focaccia. These sell incredibly well on their own and also as a panino, jam-packed with delicious cheeses and cured meats, which Doughcraft sells to customers as well.
Another avenue that the Doughcraft team is exploring is wholeselling. They recently began selling their products wholesale to several cafes in the Brisbane CBD and surrounding suburbs via their wholesaler Farine & Co.
All of this makes for a very busy timetable for the guys. But being busy at Doughcraft is something that Marco and Steven relish.
“We like to be busy. We work every day. We’re here all day and all night. That’s what we aim for, living our passions and sharing with Brisbane community,” said Marco.
Steven continued, “We do very long hours. We want to see people smiling each morning when they come to get their bread.”
At the end of the day, Marco said, it’s about the end result: the products and the people who come to enjoy them.
He said, “We’re both very passionate, so we like to make products that we love, and try to make other people love them as well.”