Baking starts at 3.00am at Q le Baker – Prahran Market’s new resident bakery. At the helm is 'Q' himself, Quentin Berthonneau, a 25-year-old baker originally from France, and Marion David, who formerly managed Baker D. Chirico.
For Berthonneau, the transition from worker to business-owner was “normal”.
“Bread is our forte at Q le Baker, 100 per cent,” he says.
“I love teaching people what I know about bread and the science that comes with the art. Things like feeling it throughout the process, smelling it, even listening to the bread. I can tell if the dough is right or not by hearing how quickly it moves through our mixing machines.
Making bread isn’t about following a recipe, Berthonneau says; a true artisan works with the ingredients and conditions of the day.
“Temperature and humidity for instance, really change the way bread forms and should help bakers determine how much water to use in the dough."
I can tell if the dough is right or not by hearing how quickly it moves through our mixing machines.
Berthonneau’s experience in Australia is expansive – he was involved in Shannon Bennett’s Burnham Bakery in the Dandenong Ranges where he sourced ingredients and equipment, and developed recipes. Later, he worked for Melbourne cafe Chez Dre before the urge to go out on his own succeeded.
It’s an all sourdough, yeast-free affair at Q le Baker, but they’re not just sticking to the classics. Baguettes and regular sourdough loaves sit next to chocolate loaves with oats, and a ginger beer fruit bread (Berthonneau makes the ginger beer in house).
There’s no shortage of bread kitchens in Prahran and its neighbouring suburbs, which begs the question: why Q le Baker?
“For freshness. We’re not a wholesale bakery and even if we became that we wouldn’t take on a whole lot of clients,” Berthonneau says.
“If bread is baked in the morning, between 12am – 7am, it should last until the end of that day.’
Anything later and the loaves reach their expiry, he says.
"I ask chefs, ‘would you buy fish that isn’t fresh anymore?’ Same goes for bread, it’s not enjoyable to eat if it’s not fresh.”
It’s not all about bread; sweets, croissants, mini Pavlovas and khorasan grain cookies also fill the shelves. It’s worth trying the brownie, which Berthonneau worked tirelessly to get right, finally settling on a chocolate rye incarnation with toasted millet. “I developed about 20 different brownie recipes, and made my girlfriend try all of them. She’s so sick of brownies now.”
The bakery is all about championing local produce. Flour comes from Victoria producers Rolling Stone Mill (who only supplies to two other bakeries in Melbourne) and South Australia’s Laucke Flour Mills. Eggs and meat are bought from within the Prahran Market.
Berthonneau is part of a baking community called ‘Grainz’, a collective of professional chefs, bakers, and home bakers from around Australia. “We all get together, somewhere around the country, and share our tips and findings through our food journeys. It’s amazingly educational, and I feel we should all do a little more sharing so the baking in Australia can really take off.”
Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat: 7am - 5pm; Sun 10am - 3pm
163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, VIC