Light, airy, flaky… There is a soft romanticism associated with the croissant, conjuring images of lace tablecloths and tea in delicate china cups. But step inside the vast warehouse space that is Fitzroy’s Lune Croissanterie, a joint venture from sibling duo Kate and Cam Reid, and you are greeted by hard polished concrete, exposed brick and a bright glass cube with long LED lights splayed on the ceiling.
“Our greatest inspiration for this space actually came from Ocean's 11 – the original movie where they find a disused warehouse on the docks and they build a perfect replica of the bank vault inside,” explains Kate, a former aerospace engineer turned world-famous pastry chef.
“In most bakeries, the raw pastry room is a tiny, windowless room out the back. But, when we saw this space, we thought about how amazing it would be to have this highly technical, climate-controlled glass cube right in the middle, so that it almost looks like a laboratory.”
All of Lune’s pastry is worked in full view of customers within the cube, which is always a perfect 18ºC. And there are plenty of customers. Every day, hundreds of people line up outside to try and snag a pain au chocolat or twice-baked pecan pie croissant before they sell out. Others are determined to get their hands on a pumpkin pie or lemon curd cruffin – Reid created the first known cruffin, a hybrid croissant/muffin, in 2013.
So what is it about Lune croissants that made The New York Times declare them perhaps “the finest you will find anywhere in the world”?
A little over 10 years ago, Kate was designing Formula One race cars, a dream she’d harboured since she was 13 years old and growing up in Melbourne’s southeastern suburb of Glen Iris. While she loved the science of aerodynamics and being an engineer, she found the role lacked creativity and wasn’t very social.
“It's not a direct link from aerodynamics to pastry, but croissants specifically are somewhat of a science,” she explains. “Not only are you creating something beautiful and delicious, but you also have this highly technical aspect behind the creation of it as well. That really tapped into my engineering side.”
After working with award-winning French baker Christophe Vasseur in Paris in 2011, Kate opened a small wholesale bakery in Elwood, specialising in croissants. She supplied them to Melbourne’s espresso bars, but soon found people knocking on her door looking to buy direct. With good reason. Lune croissants are crisp and delicate, with a buttery flake that makes it impossible to leave even the smallest crumb on the plate. And that’s even before Kate gets creative with the fillings.
For the acclaimed baker, the success of her croissant is due to precision and technique. “I realised very early on that I had probably learnt about 15 per cent of what you need to know about croissant making in Paris. Rather than go back to pastry school, I thought, ‘I should have the intelligence to be able to reverse engineer this.’ So the techniques we now use are very different to the French croissant method. As a result, we’re not tied to the classic technique, so we’re constantly evolving the product.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
With her croissant perfectly engineered, all Kate needed was someone with business experience to help take Lune to the next level. She didn’t have to look too far.
“I've basically worked in hospitality all my adult life,” notes brother Cam. “I opened my first venue when I was 23.” In 2013 he had just sold his second business when Kate approached him to join Lune as co-owner to help create a full retail experience.
“Cam is now equally as knowledgeable as me, especially in the raw pastry production,” Kate proudly declares. “He’s also the perfect business partner – we’ve got each other’s backs.” Not that a successful family bakery was always a foregone conclusion.
“Mum did enjoy a bit of Women’s Weekly baking when we were growing up – she makes a good cheesecake,” laughs Cam. “And Dad does good crepes, although neither were professional bakers in any way. But they are super proud and love that it’s a family business.”
This month, the pair will open a second Lune location in the Melbourne CBD. Lunchtimes just got a whole lot more interesting.
When your barista calls in sick or a waiter quits on short notice, what do you do? Last year Kate, Cam and their business partner Jordan Murray decided to solve that problem by launching an app called Supp to help Melbourne’s hospitality businesses find workers to fill shifts at short notice. “It was purely to satisfy a selfish need in our business,” explains Kate. The team has global aspirations to launch Supp – short for supplementary (get it?) – in cities around the world. “I feel like, as opposed to Lune, it is very important to have big goals for Supp,” she continues. “Because there’s no point having a start-up if you don’t have a big vision.”