Crust Co: The Upper Crust

Australian Baking Business joins the queue at Crust & Co. Artisan Baking and waits patiently to indulge in the sweet, flaky pastries and crusty loaves that are delighting Brisbanites.

On a quiet street in Brisbane, on the cusp of Wilston and Newmarket, the historic Red Brick Bakery still stands

While the original business is long gone, its new inhabitants, Sebastien Pisasale and Lara Sample, along with their team of passionate bakers, have made sure the delicious aroma of pastries, sourdoughs, brioches and tarts keep locals coming through the modest side door.

While it might not look like much – a large brick warehouse with a simple sign out the front advertising sourdough bread, flaky pastries and sweet treats – Crust & Co has quickly made a name for itself in the past year.

Originally opening as a wholesale supplier in early 2013, Crust & Co flung open the doors to the public last August, and hasn’t looked back.

Sebastien, a banker by trade, decided to go back to school and pursue his dream of becoming a baker at 25. He learnt from the best, studying in France at the Institut National de la Boulangerie Patisserie for six months and working alongside Lara Sample, from Brisbane boulangerie-patisserie Chouquette, for more than four years. Not surprisingly, he favours traditional long-fermentation baking methods and doesn’t compromise on quality.

While Crust & Co grew out of a need to satisfy booming demand for Chouquette’s breads and viennoiseries – and continues to supply the business with its sourdoughs, baguettes and croissants – it’s now an entirely independent business.

Crust & Co also supplies a number of other hotels, restaurants and bakeries around Brisbane. In fact, in just a year-and-a-half, the business has become the wholesale seller of choice for around 40 businesses.

The small, independent bakery has also gained thousands of Facebook and Instagram followers, a mean feat considering it’s only open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. With minimal advertising and signage, Sebastien and Lara attribute the burgeoning popularity to its top-quality products.

“We started with a few flyers in letterboxes just in the neighbourhood,” Sebastien says. “We haven’t spread the word, the customers did. And they just keep coming and coming and coming. The good thing is most of our customers are regulars, so they like it, keep coming and then tell friends to come along as well.”

But they need to be early risers, or risk missing out on the bakery’s renowned chocolate, pistachio or hazelnut croissants, danishes, or orange blossom and almond brioche.

Only using real butter and house-made jam compote, the sweet pastries and products compote, the sweet pastries and products practically fly off the shelves. Customers with a savoury-tooth, however, are not forgotten. Boasting an impressive range of quiches, including bacon and tomato and onion, pumpkin and feta, the busy Crust & Co team of 10 also bakes a huge range of delicious focaccias, dampers and traditional Italian pizzas, taught to Sebastien by his grandmother.

While proud of his entire offering, it’s the range of crusty, traditional loaves that Sebastien says keeps locals returning to the old Red Brick Bakery building each weekend.

Specialising in sourdough, the French-Italian baker chooses to forego improver and additives, instead opting to follow the traditional methods of his forefathers.

“Traditional European methods don’t necessarily take longer, and it certainly isn’t harder to make bread without additives,” Sebastien says.

“It’s just another way of thinking… an ideology, a set of principals many bakers seem to have lost or chosen not to pursue.”With shelves full of plain, rye and wholemeal sourdough loaves, mini rolls, baguettes, savoury brioche and fruit and nut loaves, there is something for even the pickiest of bread-lovers. And, with products often selling out by 10:30am, it seems Sebastien is making his dream of making affordable, tasty and popular products a reality.

“Good bread shouldn’t be expensive. Fresh, quality, organic products should not push the price of the end product up so high that artisan bread is not affordable for the local people,” he says.

“Customers seem to have this idea that a great loaf of artisan sourdough can’t be the everyday bread – the bread that is put on the dinner table for the kids.

“And it’s not surprising, because, while I can’t speak for all bakers, there are a lot of bread producers that take the easy options; those shortcuts they think saves them time and money.

“It is great to see more artisan bakery options becoming available here in Australia and hopefully this will improve competition in the market so that good bread is accessible and within peoples’ weekly budgets.”Baking is about passion, but it’s also about honesty and hard work – when you have this, success follows.”

Honesty is certainly a key element in Crust & Co. Rather than choosing to bake in a backroom or behind a wall, Sebastien and the team bake in full-view of customers, even inviting them to walk into the room and choose their own baguettes from the oven. He says he wanted customers to feel like they were involved in the process and show they have nothing to hide.

“The idea was more to bring the people in the kitchen, straight into the kitchen, instead of just having a look through a window, so that people feel like they went into the bakery,” Sebastien says.“It breaks the barrier, if you know what I mean. Bread for me is tradition. It’s something I just love to work with.”

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