Gerhard’s blog: LA Baking

Gerhard reflects on a TV slot last year, soon to be aired, and reviews some of the highlights of his recent visit to Los Angeles.

Last year I wrote about my experience of being in front of the camera on Alex Polizzi’s The Fixer on BBC Two. At long last, it was announced that the programme would be aired on Tuesday, 27 January, at 8pm. It should be a good episode. For some cake and baking inspiration, Alex brought the owners of a coffee shop in Torquay to Konditor & Cook.

I felt that the owners, a husband and wife team and their daughter, had their hearts in the right place. With little experience and two strong women at the helm, however, I sensed it wasn’t all plain sailing. Their home-baked cake range left a lot to be desired and appeared to cater more for them than their customers. There’s only one way to find out if the kettle sang or cried after Alex was done fixing.

What this programme will highlight is how hard it is to make a success of a catering business venture. In London, a surprisingly large number of baking enterprises have managed to establish themselves over the past 20 years. Some of them have been so inspirational that they helped put London on the world’s baking map. A generation ago, no catering college from continental Europe would have sent their students on exchange programmes to London, but now they do. Likewise, the influx of interns from all over the globe cements the capital’s reputation.

California is the foodie heaven of the USA and my recent trip there took me to Los Angeles, in particular. I loved the café and breakfast culture, particularly the ficelle breadsticks filled with goat’s cheese and beetroot from the Proof Bakery (www.proofbakeryla.com) in a hip area filled with young families.

Equally impressive was the brioche toast at Sqirl (http://sqirlla.com), a start-up in a “rough round the edges” part of East Hollywood.

For the most upmarket offer, you have to go to Beverly Hills. There, you can get your fill of cupcakes from Sprinkles Bakery’s 24-hour cupcake ATM, or something fancy from the Bouchon Bakery (French-style baking) or Joan’s on Third, LA’s equivalent of Dean & DeLuca. I thought their cake counter looked most appetising.

West Hollywood is the place for novelty cake baking, and the two places that stood out were Duff’s CakeMix (http://duffscakemix.com/bakery) and Charm City Bakery (www.charmcitycakeswest.com), both under the patronship of Ace of Cake star Duff Goldman. The DIY baking studio at Duff’s is pretty impressive: huge trestle tables with seating for more than 80, a glass-encased airbrushing zone, and a fun photo booth to share those very special cake triumphs, popular with young Hollywood lasses, I’m told.

Looks like if I wanted some serious (bread) baking I should have headed further north to San Francisco where Chad Robinson, of Tartine Bakery, has been making headlines for some time and his books have a cult following among bakers.

This year’s Oscar nominations are full of British talent – if there was a global Baking Oscar, I think Britain would do quite well too.

www.konditorandcook.com

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