Jiwon Kim

Venues in Australia have a reputation for doing it all. And while all-in-one concepts certainly have their place, there’s plenty of room for those that take a different approach — one that’s more singular in focus. There’s no better place to look than the pastry realm for examples of the idea; spaces where technique trumps scale and small is sweeter.

Hospitality speaks to Yeongjin Park from Tenacious Croissant in Sydney and April Yoonhee Bae from The Flour Melbourne about their approaches to pastry, the development process of new products, and riffing the classics.

Yeongjin Park started his career in dough — bread, to be exact. Park spent 10 years baking in Korea before he decided to move to Australia to develop his culinary knowledge, working in the kitchens of Russo & Russo, Lumi and Picco Leo in Sydney. It was here at Picco Leo where Park learned from Federico Zanellato (Leo; Lode; Lumi; Ele) and Karl Firla (Leo; Ele), mastering various croissants, doughnuts, and tarts alongside the chefs.

Skip ahead to 2022 and Park decided to open Tenacious Croissant on Oxford Street,
culminating his culinary experiences to create a range of pastries the city had never seen before.

“I feel lucky to have worked with chefs who motivated me to strive to make new creations,” he says. “Together, the Tenacious team continuously researches different food and drinks, and we always think about extracting and mixing elements from various cultures around the world. Whenever I have spare time, I like to go and try different food and then I think about why it tastes good and try to combine the
elements with my professional skills.”

It’s a mindset that’s evident across the Tenacious offering, which charts everything
from a kimchi sausage and cheddar cheese-stuffed croissant to grape or mango tarts, the ‘Jinius’ (croissant with raisins, caramelised white chocolate, and almond marzipan) and a riff on a classic, which has gone on to become one of Park’s most in-demand pastries.

“Portuguese tarts are shaped like small coins with filling and are enjoyed by many people, so that’s where my thought process started,” he says. “What if the filling wasn’t as sweet? What if the shape was square? What if the top was shinier? After
several tests, I finally created a satisfying result.”

While Tenacious has a core range, Park and his team are constantly experimenting with different flavours, but they all have one thing in common — they sit in a league of their own. “I invest a lot of time into studying, and thankfully customers show a lot of interest in unfamiliar dishes and they seem curious to learn more about them,” says Park.

Such openminded-ness has led to the development of more savoury products including the Spanish sub with sobrassada teamed with pickled shallots and sour cream sauce on flaky pastry and a takoyaki croissant filled with octopus salad and showered in katsuobushi.

There’s also another addition to the brand en route in the form of Tenacious Madeleine, which is a project that’s currently in the works. “Our team is composed of people from different cultures, and we are striving to create a cultural exchange hub through delicious bread and coffee,” says Park. “We started with croissants and now we are doing madeleines as the beginning of this vision, as they are the perfect
balance between cakes and cookies.”

Before The Flour arrived in West Melbourne earlier this year, Founder April Yoonhee Bae operated the brand as an online-only business. The former Rockpool pastry chef had been making caneles for years and supplying cafés with the rum-flavoured French pastry before she and husband Harry Hyun-suk Go decided to open the venue together.

“He’s a barista and worked for a green bean company before we came up with the pastry café,” says Bae. “We wanted to be close to the CBD and I really liked the location and the atmosphere of the area and the building, which is quite old.”

Bae has long specialised in caneles, experimenting with flavours such as chocolate
while The Flour was an online business, but decided to focus on the classic iteration at the café. “Rum and vanilla is the best, so I removed the flavoured ones,” says the chef. “I believe simple is best.”

The caneles are baked twice a day so customers can enjoy them at their peak during a visit to the café, which is a light, open room filled with Korean décor including a moon jar crafted by Minhi Park and soban tables that are found throughout the venue. It’s also a place to enjoy coffee from Go, an award-winning barista who has become known for his signature coffee sour. “It’s a carbonated filter coffee mixed with lime juice and blackcurrant,” says Bae. “We normally have around seven types of beans he selects and roasts.”

But there’s much more than just caneles at The Flour, where Bae bakes different cakes, financiers and dacquoise as well as weekly additions that change according to what she is inspired to create at the time.

The chef says the caneles and the dacquoise are the most popular items, with the two French pastries both specialty products that require a deft touch. “I was inspired by a dried strawberry and mascarpone dacquoise at Rockpool, but I made it into a different shape,” says Bae. The oval-shaped dacquoise are filled with a range of fillings from strawberries and cream to hazelnut; passionfruit, mango, pineapple and lemongrass; and Uji matcha.

While much of The Flour’s desserts are inspired by old-world French recipes, Bae
equally looks to her home country of Korea and to Japan for both equipment and ideas, with the chef highlighting ingredients such as ssal-jocheong (rice syrup) and tea. “They are very good at remaking things in Korea, and I can easily get new moulds for financiers,” she says. “In the future, I want to introduce some more Korean-inspired desserts and I’m going to make kimchi scones soon.”

Using native Australian produce including Rosella flower and strawberry gum is also of interest to Bae, who is incorporating many different culinary influences into her desserts. The Flour is mostly a one-woman show, and while Bae has a part-time pastry chef, baking everything fresh each day is no mean feat. “90 per cent of the time, it’s me doing it by myself, but we still want to expand our range of baked goods and do more French desserts.”

Tinned cookies have long been a passion project for Bae, who hopes to dedicate more time to them in the future. Galettes Bretonnes are sweet but salty butter biscuits from Brittany, France, and are the foundation for Bae’s cookies that cover classic (rosella whole wheat flour) and pecan (organic brown rice) to chocolate hazelnut (triticale flour [rye and wheat], Valrhona chocolate). “Tinned cookies are my dream, and I want to change the flavours seasonally,” says Bae. “We will do different shapes and use local butter, flour, and nuts. The flavour is very nutty and they go well with brown rice flour and rosella flower jam.”

There’s no shortage of choice for high-quality baked goods, and chefs continue to innovate and launch new products that combine multiple culinary inspiration points and result in some pretty unforgettable creations.