Wander into one of Gontran Cherrier’s eponymous bakeries and you’ll see the usual classics. But beside the baguettes and almond croissants will be loaves made with red miso; molasses and coriander seeds; paprika buns; and squid-ink rolls – maybe even a kimchi quiche.
“Just because a bakery is a traditional French thing, doesn’t mean they should all be the same,” says Cherrier, who will open his first Australian store in Collingwood in June. By then the French native will have 28 stores worldwide, with another 20-odd planned for later this year.
It’s quite a feat considering the first one opened in Paris in December 2010. But Cherrier, born into a family of “very traditional” bakers, wasn’t interested in the regular – he wanted to do things differently.
He began his career working in some of Paris’ top kitchens, including Alain Passard’s three-Michelin-starred L'Arpège, and Alain Senderens’ Lucas Carton. He went on to teach at one of the city’s top culinary schools and wrote cookbooks – nine of them. He even hosted several television shows, including La Meilleure Boulangerie de France (The Best Bakery in France).
“Normally, to build a business, you start with one shop and then maybe a second shop, then after that you write books and then maybe make a TV show, but I did it the other way around, my stores came last,” says Cherrier from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Urban Dairy in Queensbridge Square, where he has a pop-up bakery until March 13.
He also travelled a lot – Italy, Morocco, Korea and Russia, among other places – mostly for work, consulting and “bringing the French touch” to kitchens in other cities. It was during this time that he became fascinated with other cuisines and began incorporating new ingredients into his cooking.
“When you visit different places, you see that bread doesn’t have to be just a baguette. I’m always interested in discovering new tastes,” says Cherrier.
Although his Melbourne store is still a few months away, he’s already experimenting with native pepper leaves, lemon myrtle and Vegemite. “There is crazy food in Australia,” he says.
“Melburnians have a great curiosity about different types of food. There are already lots of really good bakeries here, but I hope I can bring something new and different.”
Gontran Cherrier is in town for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – you can try his bread and pastry now at the Urban Dairy pop-up at Queensbridge Square.
Gontran Cherrier Boulanger
Shop 4, 140–144 Smith Street, Collingwood