Gerhard Jenne muses on the huge change in customers’ demands since he started out in the bakery retail business.
The last few days have been a rollercoaster of activity. Last week ended with an afternoon in front of the cameras. I was invited to provide inspiration and give my wisdom on a forthcoming TV show. It was quite inspirational for myself and, normally at this stage, I would be itching to fill you in with all the details – who was hosting it, who the other participants were, where it was set and what may or may not have been learned on the day.
I was so excited to share it with you I wrote about it immediately, ready to post to British Baker’s website. Then I thought I better get an OK from the producers, but sadly they have come back with a ‘keep it all under wraps’ rule. They want to keep the content a surprise until it airs in July. It’s disappointing, but weirdly enough I feel the same about one of my own projects.
On Monday I had to put my chef’s hat on as I was asked to provide some emergency cover in the savoury section of one of our kitchens. I found myself boiling vast vats of porridge and prepping homemade granola pots with cherry and yoghurt, mixing fresh grated carrots and apples into our muesli mix to make a Swiss style Bircher Muesli. This makes a plain cut fruit salad just that - plain! These healthy choices have nibbled away at the share of more traditional Viennoiserie. In the early days it was mountains of croissants and Danish that were being devoured, but now I find it’s an even split between the two strands.
It’s shocking to think back to the breakfast offer in the early days of the business. We didn’t have an Italian-style coffee machine; back then I started with a Cona coffee-maker. It sat in a corner of the shop turning an initially nice cup of coffee into something resembling kerosene, before being served up in a polystyrene cup. In contrast, we are now serving our own house blend of Rainforest Alliance coffees, each cup freshly ground (of course) and turned into flat whites or lattes that must come with latte art. While we might not manage a cat leaping from one cup into another, as one photo circulating on the internet shows, it’s a massive leap forward for our coffee culture. And that’s not enough: next week our store in Borough Market sees the introduction of a single estate guest blend, giving more choice to the discerning coffee-drinking customers. If it is a success, we will be rolling out across all the other sites too.
Yesterday I then slipped into the shoes of the creative cake-maker and made a start on a range of display cakes that should provide some wonderment for customers and tourists pressing their noses against the shop windows. We found a great company that can custom-cut polystyrene drums, a great start for our four-tier marvels. I got myself covered in chocolate and cocoa by starting a giant Chocolate Streamer Cake. When it’s finished, it will be covered in hand-crafted panels of curling chocolate bark, exploding with cascading white chocolate streamers. Cakes should provide head-turning centrepieces and, for that reason, the other one will be an even jollier affair – white royal iced base with horizontal two-tone coloured dots all set in a pulsating rainbow sequence.
This is all part of something bigger... and I’m not talking about my forthcoming book launch either. But until it’s fully formed I’m not allowed to divulge more. Bear with me though; you won’t have to wait until July for me to tell you all about it.