“I was adopted at six weeks old,” chef Neil McKenzie says. “Fifteen years ago I decided to look for my birth parents.”

In the process of finding them, he discovered his birth grandmother was a baker, specialising in wedding cakes.

“It goes to show how strong those creative genes are,” McKenzie says, explaining that the discovery led him to devote his attention to baking. Neil and his wife Majella travelled to France, where Neil studied at Le Cordon Bleu, and lived there for a year. In the years after he has honed his craft while opening North Melbourne’s French Quarter and Essendon's much-loved Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie (both since sold), and the now-closed St Germain.

Last month, he opened Le Bakehouse in Brunswick.

The store’s marble benches hold perfect rows of almond croissants, lemon-cheesecake escargot, jam doughnuts and truffle cakes. Birthday cakes are also available.

“I’ve found people are really drawn to cakes they used to eat as a kid,” Neil says. “So far our hummingbird and carrot cakes are flying out the door.”

While there is no full cafe menu, you can pick a ham and gruyere croissant for lunch, or a Reuben brioche.

Majella manages the tea offering, for which water is boiled at precise temperatures.

“White teas are boiled between 65 and 78 degrees Celsius, green tea 74 to 79, and English Breakfasts, 98. Otherwise they’ll burn and ruin,” says Neil.

There are also gluten-free hot chocolates and cold-pressed juices.

Le Bakehouse
71 Lygon Street, Brunswick
(03) 9381 0628

Hours:
Wed to Fri 7.30am–4pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm