Brisbane’s leading wholesale bakery The Kneadery is only young, but it comes off the back of many years of experience and long-term local successes.
Most people would be able to relate to the year 2020 being akin to a rollercoaster (one they wish they could get off!) but for Shannon and Clare Kellam, the COVID-19 crisis hit right after opening their brand new production kitchen, The Kneadery, and Lumiere Events & Culinary Studio.
Owner and head chef Shannon is no newbie to the bakery and restaurant scene in Brisbane. On top of The Kneadery and Lumiere, he and his wife and business partner Clare, also have the award-winning French restaurant, Montrachet, King Street Bakery, as well as the also-newly opened Mica Brasserie.
To say Shannon is a busy man would be a serious understatement, so trying to catch him for an interview was a feat in itself, what with him running five venues at the same time.
Located in Newstead’s upmarket lifestyle precinct, The Kneadery is a large-scale, state-of-the-art wholesale bakery, supplying Montrachet, King Street Bakery, Lumiere, Mica, and a host of other Brisbane shops with artisanal breads, patisserie products and viennoiserie.
“We moved into our new facility early February after 12 months of design and sourcing equipment from Europe,” Shannon says.
“The Kneadery is actually a kitchen only. A 1000 square metre state-of-the-art facility with two environment rooms—one for patisserie and one for viennoiserie.
“Then there is the bakery department and the savoury kitchen.”
Needless to say, such a huge operation produces an enormous amount of baked goods. In fact, Shannon says that with breads, patisserie and viennoiserie combined, The Kneadery produces several thousand products each day—all made and finished by hand.
Everything on the menu is made fresh in-house every day using only the best raw ingredients to bring The Kneadery’s creations to life.
“We have a four-tonne lift that comes up to the kitchen, which is on level three of the Breakfast Creek lifestyle precinct building in Newstead,” Shannon says.
Naturally, the incredible fit out of the kitchen is only a small part of the equation when it comes to producing the quality goods that make The Kneadery Brisbane’s leading wholesale bakery. The rest of the magic comes from the highly skilled team of internationally trained chefs and bakers.
“We have several chefs from various backgrounds, and all are from or trained in France in a good mix of applications,” Shannon says.
“These include Michelin Star restaurants, great patisseries such as Olivier Bajard and great pastry houses such as Lenôtre.”
Shannon and Clare are used to tackling difficult tasks. They took over Paddington’s beloved Montrachet and turned it into a nationally recognised, award-winning French restaurant, and moved it from its iconic home on Given Terrace to its current King Street location, and then launched the neighbouring King Street Bakery.
However, the events of 2020 knocked them for six with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, which threw the future of their restaurant empire into doubt.
In fact, Montrachet came close to the brink of shutting down back in March when they had 95 per cent of their bookings cancelled in one week, leaving the jobs of 60 staff members uncertain.
Having just launched The Kneadery and Lumiere Events & Culinary Studio in February, the Kellams had Mica on its way too, and 18 months of hard work and careful planning was looking like it may all go to waste.
Rather than delaying the opening of Mica, they decided to forge ahead and make the most of it, actually bringing the launch forward. Fortunately, it has been a huge success, attracting queues out the door thanks to being in an ideal location to take full advantage of foot traffic.
Located right on Breakfast Creek, Mica has attracted a huge amount of passing trade from locals trying to escape being cooped up in nearby apartments, with a steady stream of dog walkers, parents with prams, and fitness fanatics dropping in for a cheeky coffee and croissant to break up their day.
“It [COVID-19] has had a massive impact with our restaurants closing,” Shannon says.
“However, the pastry shops have been very strong. We opened Mica in the midst of the shut down period, which was a brave step, but it really paid off and has been extremely busy, averaging 4000 patrons per week over five days.”
With some clever foresight, the Kellams were able to keep things afloat at Montrachet as well. By the time the Federal Government mandated the shutdown of restaurants, cafes and clubs, they were ready to launch a dine-at-home menu service for Montrachet.
The Montrachet at-home menu isn’t the traditional take-away service; rather they opted to create pre-prepared cook-at-home packs, with all the ingredients and instructions needed for customers to prepare their own delicious meals in the safety and comfort of home. This model has proved to be immensely popular, with the restaurant receiving up to 1000 sales in one day.
Prepared and packaged in the Newstead kitchen, the Kellams came up with the cook-at-home concept almost as soon as the lockdown was announced after seeing what was happening to the restaurant industry in France and New York at the time.
Talking to Shannon, it is clear the coronavirus pandemic and the chaos it has caused has not dampened the Kellams’ ambitions in the slightest.
“Our plans are to continue to innovate and think of better ways to conduct service, not only in our shops but also in our kitchen to make people feel safer and have good confidence in our approach,” he says.
“And as always, we are testing our products and new recipes to stimulate ourselves and our patrons, while showing our trainees and younger staff the importance of upholding the history and respect of our craft.”
As the saying goes, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes your stronger’, and if this is the case, we can expect to see this dynamic husband and wife team continuing to make leaps and bounds and dominating the Brisbane hospitality scene.