Chu Bakery is cool. they have the kind of instagram that makes us wonder where we went wrong with ours and the story of how they came to be is very cute. but, there’s more to chu than a funky social presence and being a super sweet husband and wife duo. they’re passionate about quality, which, even if you’re not into a love story, is something everyone can appreciate.
It has been a little more than a year since Chu Bakery opened. Husband-and-wife team Ryan and Seren Chu have since gone from working 18-hour days to having a team of about 20, with the racks emptying quickly.
Chu Bakery is French-inspired, and while Seren says she wouldn’t call Chu a patisserie, they make patisserie items such as choux pastry, éclairs made from scratch, handmade tarts, brioche, brioche doughnuts (which are a big seller) croissants, twice-baked croissants, as well as baguettes and sourdough. To top it all off, they make coffee as well, sourced from Melbourne roaster Dukes.
The interior, decked out by Mata Design Studio, is bright, clean, natural-toned and inviting. The store is positioned on the corner of a block across from a park, which provides visitors with the perfect setting for grabbing a sweet treat and a cup of coffee to enjoy in the sunshine.
Their success is even more commendable considering they are self-taught bakers and pastry chefs. While Seren came from a background in baking, managing her parents’ business, Ryan had no baking experience whatsoever.
“My husband and I are self-taught. We learnt from textbooks,” Seren says.
“It was a long journey because there was a lot more trial and error than a trained pastry chef or baker would have.
“So, we’re quite proud we managed to do it ourselves – and the staff we hired, we learn from them. Within our bakery we all learn from each other.”
A month before they opened, Seren started an Instagram account for Chu Bakery, hoping it would get some exposure. On the first day they had a line outside the door and sold out by 10am.
“I just thought oh my god. I didn’t expect it to explode,” Seren says
“The challenge then was the labour – we just couldn’t keep up. We slowly hired, but Ryan and I were doing 18-hour days to begin with; it was really hard.
“Some mornings I would fall asleep making crème pat, and it’s such a vigorous movement when you’re making crème pat. But I would just doze off. I would set up a chair against the wall and set the alarm for five minutes to have a quick power nap before we opened.
“We did an all-nighter once because we just couldn’t keep up. We worked 36 hours that day.”
After two months, Seren hired a pastry hand and Ryan hired a baking hand. Their mums helped them in the early days as well, with Ryan’s mum still doing some work for Chu Bakery.
Seren worked for her parents’ bakery in Busselton before the couple met, with Ryan working as a town planner in Perth, three hours away. After a year together, the three-hour commute was getting tiring, so Ryan decided to make the move to Busselton and look for a job with the council. Being a small town, jobs were scarce, so Ryan worked for the family bakery until he found something.
“I think it all started there; that kind of inspired him, he just enjoyed working with his hands,” Seren says.
The couple did end up moving to Perth, where Ryan went back to university and worked in an office again. He realised then working in an office really wasn’t for him.
“Ryan wanted to start his own bakery,” Seren says.
“He was the one who really ignited it and I was more than happy to come on board with him. He said to me that he needed a pastry chef and I said ‘well, I can do it with you and we can both teach ourselves’ and that’s how it happened.”
It sounds like a funny happenstance, but for Seren it was always in her mind, having grown up in the baking industry. She understood the ins and outs of the industry and knew what was missing in Perth.
Seren had the opportunity to take over the family business but wanted something that was more the couple’s style, where they could build it from the ground up, sourcing premium ingredients and with the idea that everything would be made from scratch.
“I wanted to use the best ingredients, so my husband and I took our time sourcing really good quality products,” she says.
“For example, we use Lescure French butter for our croissants, organic stoneground wheat from Wholegrain Milling in NSW, Valrhona chocolate and so on. We’re about quality over quantity.”
Their focus on quality extends to the presentation of their products, particularly their desserts, which are masterful. They often do limited-time-only treats, such as their Father’s Day ‘Pappa Chu’ chocolate tart with salted caramel, Guanaja single-origin dark chocolate ganache and caramelised nuts.
Their announcements for new creations are made on Instagram, with people commenting along the lines of “oh no, these will be sold out before I finish work!”
Not bad for the couple that taught themselves to bake last year.