Laura Gonzalez's extended family may have a bakery in Buenos Aires, but glazing pastries and selling loaves wasn't a future she imagined for herself. "She was actually fairly clear that she did NOT want to ever open a bakery," says Anu Haran.
Which is funny, because business partners Haran and Gonzalez now run one of Sydney's best new bakeries: Flour Shop in Turramurra on the upper north shore of Sydney.
It's an unlikely twist in a story that began in an unlikely way: Haran and Gonzalez met on a London train, seven years ago, when it broke down for two hours in the city's west.
"We were seated opposite each other," says Haran. "Laura is very extroverted and is extremely easy to talk to." They chatted about macarons – and why Haran's attempts to make them kept backfiring – and a friendship was sparked.
Although they both worked for Vodafone ("she was in finance, me in marketing," says Haran), they were curious about food and started doing pop-up dinners together, serving 12 people at a time in Haran's living room.
The events sold out so they staged dinners in cafes, churches - any available space. A year later, Vodafone India offered Haran a job. "It was a hard decision, but I decided to move and take the role. As Laura dramatically puts it, 'Anu left me!'"
But they stayed in touch as their career paths diverged. Gonzalez opened a cafe and began getting into sourdough –a necessity as there wasn't a good local bread supplier. Two years later, she got into making dough full-time: catching the 3:00am train to London to clock in for her 5:00am shift at The Snapery, which produces artisan sourdough bread for some of the city's top restaurants.
Haran eventually relocated to Sydney for work but knew she wanted to open a bakery with Gonzalez one day. So she left her safe corporate job to become a dishwasher – the only hospitality job she was qualified for. It was tough: the work was demanding and the pay hit dramatic – she gave up a lot to afford her career change.
"It's our way of introducing people to flavours that we grew up with."
"Frankly, had my husband, Parag, not pushed me on, I would most definitely have quit," she says. As she gained more professional baking experience (at Organic Bread Bar, Pizza Madre and Staple Bread & Necessities), he'd drive her to her shifts – which started at 1:00am sometimes or 4:00am other times – only to catch some sleep before getting ready for his own job.
Gonzalez eventually moved to Sydney and they finally opened the doors to Flour Shop in February. They've quickly attracted queues for their diverse menu: you might see Jerusalem bagels, Swedish kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and Mexican bread pudding on the counter, or grab a Vietnamese coffee to go.
The owners regularly change pastry flavours, often to reflect their cultural backgrounds: Haran has Indian heritage, while Gonzalez has Argentinean-Spanish roots.
"It's our way of introducing people to flavours that we grew up with – that Argentinean food is not just big beefy steaks and Spanish food is not just paella and Indian food is not just curries," says Haran.
Jerusalem bagels are topped with chimichurri and egg one day, and croissants stuffed with lamb kofta and pickled chilli another. Pies are loaded with Indian samosa fillings or Argentinean empanada flavours.
"There is so much inspiration to draw from," says Haran.
Flour Shop also shapeshifts its menu to support local establishments that have suffered under pandemic-trading restrictions. The bakery has bought meat and cheese from businesses with excess stock, like cold cuts from a nearby pizzeria that had to close, and fills pies and tops bagels with these ingredients. The pair have called in flour deliveries for home-baking businesses that have struggled to find supplies, too.
"For the first time, it felt like I'd done the right thing."
"We're also giving out our starter for free because home baking is a way for people to keep sane," says Haran. "Also, every now and again, the odd customer comes in sheepishly around 8:00am to bake their sourdough in our deck oven."
Flour Shop's owners happily make room for the odd loaf, as long as the bakery isn't too busy. It's a way to give back to locals, who've been incredibly supportive.
The bakery's second weekend was exceptionally busy, despite the suburb being struck by a storm so bad that trees had fallen throughout Turramurra. Customers had purposely dragged their friends out to ensure the bakery wasn't empty during its early days.
The following weekend was so packed that Haran started sobbing while serving someone. "It was a bit bizarre and the customer was taken aback," she says.
"For the first time, it felt like I'd done the right thing in making the decision to leave my job two years back, and felt like all the sacrifices Parag had made for me was finally worth his while."
16 Princes Street, Turramurra NSW
Thur–Sun 6.30am – until sold out