How Michael Klausen Got into Baking
The Brasserie Bread co-founder and chef-turned-baker shares the story of Sydney's most beloved bakery
The artisan bread. Rustic in appearance, made with a multi-grain medley of flours, it exists just to prove that not all bread is made equal. You don’t need to be a baker to realise that a freshly baked loaf of bread tastes better than the grocery variety. Artisan bread, simply put, is bread created with attention to make sure it comes out beautifully. To sum up, it’s very well-made bread.
These days, people are passionate about artisan bread. Seeded sourdoughs and hand-crafted ryes - they now exist everywhere. But this wasn’t always the case. Back then, if you wanted well-crafted bread, you had to make it yourself. This is essentially where the story of Brasserie Bread begins. When Michael was still top chef for a restaurant in Sydney, they wanted to add a good sourdough bread on the menu. But since no other bakery existed to supply handmade bread, they had to bake it themselves. Today, Michael’s business, Brasserie Bread, stands in many cities as evidence of his desire to put out good bread.
In this post, we have a conversation with Michael and learned about his stories and how he got into the business of baking. PLUS, get $30 off any of their classes - valid until June 30th, 2017! Find out how to get this generous discount at the end of the post.
Please tell us about your childhood in Denmark. Did you have a love for cooking/baking as a child?
When I grew up in Denmark, my mum always did lots of typical Danish hearty cooking, and I started very early to help out. When I was 10 years old, I started to spend my summer holidays in restaurant kitchens doing work experience and my passion for food just grew and grew.
Why and how did you get started in food?
My parents supported me to cook for their friend at home at the age of 13 to 16, so I would read cookbooks and give my mum a shopping list. I remember I once did a deboned chicken filled with green pasta and truffles (I did not get the amount of truffles I wanted) served with a bisque from yabbies. I finished my schooling and became a chef apprentice. Became a chef, and went to France for 3 years before coming to Australia.
You are a chef turned baker. Was that a natural progression?
Yes, a chef by heart - and a baker by choice. It was a very natural progression. I used to bake a lot in Denmark and we also baked at Bayswater Brasserie.
How’s it feel to be a pioneer of the artisan bread movement in Australia?
I don’t feel like I was the pioneer - it was just very good timing, lots of passion and hard work. But I have always been the kind of person who will push the status quo. We managed to move our customers away from consuming boring white bread into handmade bread like sourdough. Even airlines changed their menus away from the usual bread rolls!
Can you describe a baking experience you will never forget?
Yes, it was the day I made our first loaf of bread with the single sourced flour from flinders ranges. I was blown away by the different outcomes and the characters that came from this amazing wheat. The dough mixed very different, the flour absorbed lots of water and it was so elastic. When I cut the bread from the first bake the crust was something I had never seen before. The smell of the crumb was full of flavour from the wheat field and our sourdough starter. At that moment, I knew that my pursuit for single origin flour was important and a must.
Are there any chefs or bakers you admire?
There are many, and for different reasons. There is Dan Barber, for his pursuit for the perfect wheat. “The” Lionel Poilȃne. Soren Gericke, for showing me you can do anything if you have enough drive. And most of all, every single young chef that opens a restaurant or café, just for giving it a go.
When and why did you decide to teach artisan bread making?
I worked a lot with slow food in Sydney as a chef and was teaching cooking, so when the bakery come around it was natural to start sharing and inspiring the world of artisan baking.
The first time I had a group of young kids (aged 5 to 7 ) changed me. I had the kids around a table with some dough, and I showed them how to make a pizza scroll and a chocolate flatbread. The kids’ reaction was so positive and so inspiring to me. They would often say how it was the best day of their life, coming home with their own baked bread. The whole idea of teaching kids was born then!
What’s your dream at this point?
Getting seed breeders and farmers to produce wheat for the artisan bread industry with focus on nutrition and flavour.
Lastly, what’s the secret to making an award-winning sourdough bread?
Striving for perfection but still keeping humble. 🙂
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