In 2012 Lune Croissanterie opened as a hole-in-the-wall shop in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood, and instantly had customers lining up from 4.30am to make sure they didn’t miss out. These days they are thankfully located in a much bigger space that offers counter service as well as a three-course private dining experience, but the rave reviews haven’t stopped — last year a food critic from The New York Times praised Lune’s “ethereal, exceptionally flaky pastries” as amongst the best in the world. We hung out with sibling duo Kate and Cameron Reid to find out how they got here.
Hi guys! What are your earliest food memories?
Kate (K): My earliest memory is helping Mum make her apricot cheesecake, a Women’s Weekly 1970s special, and it’s still my absolute favourite dessert.
Cam (C): My finger got burnt on a hot chip. I still haven’t learnt.
What were you guys like as kids? Did you get along?
K: I was initially disappointed that Cam was born a boy, but to be honest we have always gotten on well. I love that in a very roundabout way we have both ended up at exactly the same place — it shows that there’s no one path to achieving something.
C: Kate was a bit of a bully. She made me wear dresses when I was a little kid and broke my favourite toy — a motorbike. But I’m a lot taller than her now, so I guess what goes around comes around . . .
What’s the best thing about working with each other now?
K: I know that Cam is super committed to the business and he knows that I am — we don’t let each other down. We also have different skill sets that complement each other, Cam has a strong business focus, and is wonderful with managing and training people; I love the creativity and technicality of the pastry production. I have to say though, for a guy that hadn’t even baked a cake when he started at Lune, he’s a bloody good pastry chef!!
Kate, tell us a bit about your former life as an aerodynamicist for Formula One. Do you think your experience as an engineer has helped you in any way as a pastry chef?
K: Most definitely. I am not a typical pastry chef. I am also not really a classically trained pastry chef. I spent a short amount of time staging in the raw pastry kitchen at Du Pain et des Idees [in Paris]. When I got back to Melbourne and began the process of setting up Lune, I realised I had probably learnt about 10% of the croissant making process. So I did a lot of reading, and then a LOT of experimentation — trial and error. I conducted my experimentation with the methodical process in which an engineer would run testing. Over time the gaps were filled in, but many of the processes that were the results of my testing were very different to the classical techniques related to croissant production. This has carried on at Lune to this day — as the tech- niques are not classic, we are not married to any of our processes. They simply form the baseline of our current process — we are constantly testing, iterating and improving our techniques.
What was it like working with Christophe Vasseur at Du Pain et des Idees?
K: [It] was inspirational. I was drawn to the boulangerie from a beautiful photo in a coffee table book about Parisian patisseries. The greatest thing I learnt was to work spotlessly, with pride in your work, and to never cut corners — every little detail matters, and that’s what makes your end product exceptional.
Cam, what were you doing before you started Lune?
C: I have worked in cafés as a barista, wine bars, fine dining restaurants, and managed a pizza restaurant that sometimes also involved pulling on an apron and making the pizzas. But the real defining moment in my career was when I took advantage of a change in liquor licensing laws in Sydney and moved up there to open one of Sydney’s first small bars — Chingalings. After selling Chingalings, I moved back to Melbourne in 2012 and opened my second business, a neighbourhood café called Station St Trading Co in Port Melbourne. The café was sold after a successful 12 months, and at the time Kate was looking to convert Lune from a wholesale business into a retail bakery. What I initially thought would be a stepping stone, helping Kate get Lune up and running as a retail business, turned into a long-term commitment (from a business and a baking perspective!) to producing the highest quality croissants. I’ve always loved good food, now I’m passionate about producing it as well.
Walk us through the process of making a traditional French croissant.
K: It’s a three day process — we make the dough on the first day, laminate (or create the layers of dough and butter) on the second day, including final shaping of the pastries. They prove (sit at a specific temperature and humidity in order to activate the yeast) overnight, then we egg wash and bake them on the third day. There are many, many tiny little steps within this process that I’m not going to divulge — as the saying goes “the devil is in the detail” and that is truly where the magic lies in a Lune croissant!
What, in your opinion, makes an excellent pastry?
K: I prefer a croissant to err on the side of savoury. An excellent croissant is super light, with an open inner honeycomb structure. The butter taste must be prominent, but not leave a greasy taste in your mouth. Finally the outside shell of the pastry must be delicate, with an audible crunch when you bite into it, and you should end up covered in shards of pastry.
How difficult is it to source the ingredients you need? Simple things like flour and butter must be very different in Australia compared to France.
K: We actually use French butter! And yes — that’s because Australian butter is very different. The butter from Normandy has a particularly beautiful taste — it is nutty and complex — but it is also produced in such a way that it has a higher melting point and a more malleable texture, better for laminating. Luckily we have a supplier that imports the butter for us from France. Flour in Australia is also very different to flour in Europe. When I first started Lune I spent several months working on my dough recipe, which ended up [being] very different from the dough we made in France.
In 2015 you opened Lune Croissanterie 2.0 in Fitzroy with an amazing space-age kitchen fondly referred to as “The Cube”. Did you have any requests for the new space?
K: We wanted the raw pastry kitchen to be completely visible to our customers. Making croissants is such a dark art — when I was delivering pastries to espresso bars in the early days, people used to ask me if I got up in the mornings and whipped up a batch of croissants. We wanted customers to see how much effort and care we put into our pastries. It’s also so beautiful to watch. Our plan for the space was also to maintain the beautiful raw finish of the warehouse — it has a lot of history, so we wanted to respect that and also celebrate it. Also, dropping the glass cube in the middle of the warehouse was a bit of a nod to Ocean’s Eleven, where they build a perfect replica of a bank vault in a disused warehouse at the docks!
Tell us a bit about The Lune Lab dining experience.
K: When we were operating out of the store in Elwood, coming to Lune was a very intimate experience — customers lined up at the door of the bakery, which also served as the counter. All the baking happened in the small open 20 sqm behind the counter, and everyone got to interact with me and Cam. We were worried when we moved to the big new HQ in Fitzroy we would lose some of this connection with our customers. So we created the Lune Lab. It is our opportunity to interact with eight customers sitting at the bar. It’s also a perfect chance for us to showcase pastries that must be served and eaten within a given timeframe.
What are some of the most out-there pastries that you’ve invented? Was there anything that was an unexpected hit or a total disaster?
K: I think the biggest unexpected hit has been the Cruffin! Way back in 2013 when I was supplying Everyday Coffee with pastries, each morning co-owner Joe Miranda would eat one of the croissants. One night I knotted some scrap pastry up and put it in a muffin tin hole. In the morning I baked it and delivered it to Everyday Coffee for Joe. Ten minutes later I got a call from him requesting I deliver a dozen of them the following Friday. They have been a runaway success — they’re now made in bakeries all over the world, and are one of our best-selling products!
If you could only eat one thing from your menu for the rest of your life, what would it be?
K: The traditional croissant. I will never get sick of croissants.
C: I eat a Kouignamann almost every morning. They are so damn good.
Running the business sounds like hard physical work. What do you guys enjoy doing on your days off?
K: I love yoga and I also do a barre class on my days off. I need a bit of balance in my life! I’m also looking at getting a dog, which I’m pretty excited about!!
C: I’ve recently gotten back into playing tennis — I’m working on my serve!
Finally, what’s coming up for Lune this year?
K: We have just restarted wholesale supply after a three-year hiatus! We’re exclusively supplying Top Paddock, Kettle Black, Higher Ground and Cumulus Inc, seven days a week. We are also investigating the possibility of doing some pop ups around Australia and overseas! Back at Lune HQ we have a long list of new pastries that will be rolled out across the year, so Lune customers can expect some delicious new additions to the menu in 2017!