What do you get when you put a global baker and trained nurse together in a baking school ? You can have a privileged firsthand account on artisan baking from the award winning baker himself and a lunch that makes you twice about abandoning livestock, both done professionally and delicately understated.
Maybe it is the bright airy baking studio, or to-die-for kitchen fittings or the well positioned baking books and utensils on display.
Or maybe it is just good old fashioned teaching from the heart.
And this just warms you on the inside.
A professional baker and pâtissier with an international following, Dean Brettschneider is an award-winning author of 12 cookbooks, presenter and judge in multiple TV shows, co-owner and founder of the popular Baker & Cook artisan bakeries and Plank Sourdough Pizza in Singapore. The first Baker & Cook bakery started at the Hillcrest Road branch and it is also where all the baked goods are made for all the branches. Initially, the baking takes place overnight and so when the place becomes available during midday, Dean uses it to hold baking classes informally. Over time it became popular but with the bakery outlets expansion and the baking crew coming in 24hrs a day to bake for 5, soon to be 6 outlets, little space is left for baking classes, so the global baker himself decided to look for alternatives, explained by Helen Burge, Operations Manager at Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School.
Having grown up in Australia, Helen have always been passionate about food and cooking. And being the daughter of a green grocer, the most exciting time of the year was when Summer was approaching as this meant the colourful, sweet tropical fruits were coming into season. Helen is a trained nurse and vegetarian for more than 20 years, and always had a strong personal interest in health, nutrition, fitness and nutritional medicine. It wasn’t until she became a mother that she decided to focus on her passion and self-publish a cookbook with 100% of proceeds going to the Captain Courageous Foundation charity – a cause close to her heart. Her focus is on vegetarian cooking, whole foods, superfoods and raw recipes in an effort to balance the nutritional requirements of her two young vegetarian daughters. As Operations Manager at Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School, she loves to get into the beautiful kitchen and re-create some of her favourite salads and dishes for the baking students daily.
Since its opening in April, the Baking & Cooking school’s participants comes from all sorts of baking and cooking backgrounds. They can be housewives who needed to re-connect ever since cooking at home had been outsourced to helpers, or the expat community or even corporate clients who takes a class together with staff as a form team bonding. Surprisingly 95% of the participants are locals and a handful are Dean’s social media followers (yes, Dean is that approachable) or friends travelling from Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia and Jakarta, who knows Dean from his global work stints and consultancy work.
The success factor of his classes, is that he is the teacher actually holding the class. Not his staff nor his protégés conducts the teaching. The baking class is not just about baking simply a quiche but Dean supplemented valuable information as well, why certain ingredients were used, the reason behind certain techniques, what are the tips and tricks on rolling the dough for example. In his words, ‘It is the depth of knowledge that some of us do not possess.’
One may wonder on why Dean places such value on educating and training people and making sure they have the right cooking and baking knowledge. Isn’t he giving away his secrets and expertise ?
Dean’s teaching philosophy is quite simple, it is more than just liking food and cooking. ‘Your hands are your tools, together with your head and your heart, you can’t go wrong. As for some people who are really passionate about baking and cooking, you can’t discourage that.’
In addition to setting up Bakery & Cook as an artisan bakery & foodstore chain, the Baking & Cooking school is another environment which complements that baking perspective, where people learn, appreciate, experiment and the goal of teaching and training is not to have professional graduates. It is a Baking & Cooking school with ovens, hobs and kitchen facilities akin to a home setup. It also acts as a test environment, to make 2 pastries for tasting instead of 50 pastries and with that, undertakes as a venue of an incubator of ideas.
Using the barista classes as an example, Dean further expounded that it is more than just knowing the secret of making a good cup of coffee or refining latte art. It is about learning where the beans comes from, the philosophy behind choosing which growers and suppliers to work with, and how the beans are roasted etc.
Knowing that Dean is not all alone in this setup, he has a great team of people helping him in the background, guest chefs stop by Singapore, as well as local celebrity chef friends who conducts cooking classes. There are also supporting partners and sponsors who want to work with Baker & Cook, such as Fischer & Paykel, Kenwood and Global, which treat Baking & Cooking school like their showroom and feature their latest ovens, fridges and cook ware.
Speaking with Dean if he had any preference between someone whom started in the kitchen young compared to a culinary school graduate, his answer was revealing. It is true that even though some chefs has little theoretical knowledge, but they possess industry knowledge. They do not know why they are doing certain things in a certain way, but that was what they learnt from their masters. And today’s world is about both, just like getting on the internet. The smart ones will use it for information, but it is also what you do with it. Dean himself worked under Marco Pierre White and quipped that he was born in the Marco days.
As a baker, trainer, teacher, coach and founder, what gets Dean out of bed each morning is simply – Giving. Having built the business from nothing 4 years ago to 9 stores today, he admits that he could only do it with a good team. That learning, giving and love of teaching also help him spot the kind of people he looks for in his team. Are they passionate ? Do they have that fire in the belly ? Everyone has passion, it not necessary a passion in baking, but it can be a passion in serving people, or a passion about wine. Dean believes that someone who is hungry to learn and want to do better will put in the long hours and sacrifices with enthusiasm and hard work. Good chefs know from a conversation or body language, whether that person got it. They can see in their eyes or their personality.
Dean also admitted his wake up call one morning that he is stopped being the one who does everything himself and only his way. He has since identified others who are able to do good work with encouragement and gentle nudging. He realised that his goal to be a baking entrepreneur and a global brand cannot be accomplished on his own. There is wonderful people out there and he is able to coach the best out of them.
Lunch conversation with Dean revolved around the hipster café trend, global consultancy work, the craziness of setting up a cafés in suburban areas, new outlets, bringing his son into the business (or not), and networking with fellow chefs and bakers. There is a hint of maverick inside him, and he is neither slowing down nor taking his current success for granted.
Not slowing down doesn’t do enough justice since Dean is one of the most respected bakers on the planet. Who knows the next lap for artisan breads may take route in the orbital path of space travel, fit for a super baker like Dean Brettschneider.
Co-owner and founder of the Baker & Cook artisan bakeries Dean Brettschneider will share his craft through Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School. This luxuriously equipped and beautifully appointed culinary studio opens 11 April with a full line up of exciting courses taught by Brettschneider and friends to offer professionally taught hands-on baking and cooking classes in a fun and casual environment. Brettschneider’s exciting new school is poised to be one of the most stunning yet intimate culinary learning environments in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Says Brettschneider, “I’ve always been driven to keep the art of baking and cooking alive and with this venture I hope to provide a fun, intimate and interactive environment where I can teach and share my passion of baking. I am certain students will be surprised and delighted by their culinary creations and more importantly, proud that it was made with their own hands, energy and passion.”
Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School pushes traditional school boundaries by adding a dollop of fun and dash of imagination while learning from one of the world’s leading global bakers and his exceptional network of chefs, pastry chefs, cooks and baristas. Brettschneider leads a team of passionate chefs who teach an array of cuisines and techniques for levels of ability that range from beginner to advanced.
Designed to be unique, each Baking & Cooking School course will be an enlightening session where students can truly learn not just how, but why when approaching cooking and baking. Courses will include an exquisite meal complete with beverage pairings, and of course Baker & Cook’s delicious fresh breads!
Nestled in the quaint leafy Hillcrest suburb at Bukit Timah, Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School offers state-of-the-art facilities. Interiors are designed to replicate a dream home kitchen, with abundant counter space, top line equipment and utensils, natural light and a light modern style.
Adamant to deliver the best quality culinary education experience in Singapore, Brettschneider has partnered with some of the world’s leading kitchen appliance, equipment, cookware and kitchen brands. Some are a nod to his Kiwi background, such as the ovens, refrigerators and other appliances designed in New Zealand by Fisher&Paykel. Silestone has provided purpose-built kitchen countertops. Students will also enjoy using Kenwood mixers and food processors,Global and Laguiole knives, and Scanpan cookware collections. Many of the tools used in the classes will be available for retail in the school. The Baking & Cooking School kitchen is perfect for those wanting to test out top quality culinary equipment and see how it can help take their skills to the next level.
COURSES & INSTRUCTORS
Guests are free to choose from a plethora of classes that cater to their experience and availability, as classes range from easy to intense and from half-day sessions to two-day masterclasses.
Brettschneider himself will teach Basic Bread Baking, based on his successful book BREAD, in which he will show how to produce a variety of breads and rolls from one basic dough. Other Brettschneider-led bakery selections include Italian Flatbreads & Pizza Making, Classic Cakes, Sweet Delicate Breads, Proper Pies & Tarts, Patisserie & Pastry Perfection and a Croissants & Danish Pastry Masterclass amongst the many classes offered. Students will have the benefit of learning bread and baking stills from the master baker and pâtissier firsthand. His unique methods and detailed explanations are certain to ignite students’ passion for cooking as they discover the art and science behind baking beautiful breads, pastries, cakes and tarts.
Acclaimed local chefs will offer a variety of creative lessons informed by their areas of expertise. Professional guest chefs include Eric Neo, Executive Chef of InterContinental Hotel Singapore, teaching Singapore Cuisine at its Best; celebrity chef Lino Sauro from Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare, teaching Seafood Sensations with Kuhlbarra Barramundi; award-winning chef Derek Ang, former Executive Chef of the Privé Group, teaching Healthy, Wholesome Home Cooking with Kuhlbarra Barramundi; and Jenna White, Executive Pastry Chef at Flute’s Restaurant, presenting Macaroon Madness. Others include rising-star pastry chef Joe Leong (son of Sam Leong) teaching Plated Desserts & Petite Fours; and Terri-Anne Leske, food blogger-turned-author conducting Cooking with SuperFoods and Carrotsticks & Cravings.
Additionally, guests can also learn the secrets behind creating the perfect cup of coffee and Become a Barista for The Day through a course taught by Baker & Cook’s talented baristas using New Zealand’s own Allpress Coffee. Available for the first time here in Singapore, Allpress uses carefully selected, top-quality Arabica beans roasted to perfection for delicious, full bodied flavor, a favourite amongst coffee aficionados.
TEAMBUILDING & STAFF TRAINING
In addition to regular classes and masterclasses, the school is available for custom classes and private events. Guests will have access to the stunning 1000 square foot, purpose-built space to suit all needs for special events, corporate teambuilding or events, private cookery classes, charity fundraisers, product launches, or photography shoots and filming, with or without additional catering, kitchen equipment or additional support from the kitchen staff and chefs.
Maintaining an unparalleled standard of expertise and culinary knowledge, new Baker & Cook and Plank staff will be personally trained in the school under the guidance of Dean Brettschneider. The Baking & Cooking School will support Brettschneider’s businesses, hospitality industry, Singapore community and the art of cooking and baking.