Christopher Thé found fame in Sydney as founder of Black Star Pastry, where he invented one of Australia’s most famous desserts: the watermelon cake. Thé left Black Star in 2019, but he’s back on the culinary scene with a range of savoury baked goods made with Salt Meats Cheese and sold at Harris Farm.
Thé’s preservative-free, naturally leavened sourdough crumpets and English muffins are handmade in small batches in Salt Meats Cheese's This Is Us production kitchen in Strathfield using single-origin flour from northern New South Wales.
Thé sold out of Black Star after partnering with current CEO Louis Li (who’s also behind boutique Victorian hotel Jackalope). He’s spent the past 12 months unwinding after years of hard work, doing something lots of us have been doing during the coronavirus lockdown. “I’ve been baking sourdough – reconnecting with family,” he tells Broadsheet.
“I took a partner in June 2018 because business was crazy and it looked like [Black Star] needed to go to other cities and countries,” he continues. (The brand now has a location in Melbourne and has done pop-ups in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.) “I couldn’t manage it by myself. When I left, it felt like Black Star was a jigsaw puzzle and the last piece had gone in. I mean, it’s not finished – they’ll do something wonderful with it – but my part was done.”
When the founders of Salt Meats Cheese heard he was experimenting with sourdough, they invited him to create some products to sit alongside their fresh pizzas for their This Is Us Harris Farm range. The muffins and crumpets are being sold under the name This Is Us by Christopher Thé.
Although Thé’s now baking for a grocery chain, the operation is small compared to the volume he was churning out for Black Star’s four Sydney locations. “We can make about 4000 crumpets and muffins every second day. I’m learning my limitations, I’ll tell you that,” he says, laughing.
Thé’s English muffins have a lot more height than other commercial English muffins on the market. “The top and bottom are fried so they’re super crunchy, the sides are really soft and tangy, and they have a beautiful tear. The sourdough really adds another dimension,” he says.
“I had this idea of a perfect weekend morning and it was crumpets with honey and berries, and a bacon-and-egg roll on this perfect English muffin.” This Is Us launched last week and Thé seems excited, like he’s reconnecting with the kind of magic he felt in the early days at Black Star.
“You know the feeling when you bake, it’s a lovely feeling,” he says. “I do feel 10 years younger, although I don’t know how long I can keep it up.” Friends have asked him if This Is Us is his big comeback.
“I think not really,” he says. “This Is Us brand is a humble, low-key thing. We’re just doing something we love. It’s a chance to quietly contribute to good food in Sydney. I don’t need to take over the world or have the next big thing. This Is Us seems to be the right thing for this time.”
This Is Us by Christopher Thé crumpets and English muffins are now available at Harris Farm supermarkets.