Making pastry is an intricate and laborious task. The trick is to take it layer by layer, folding then rolling to build a delicate stack of butter and dough. It is the crucial component of a pithivier, a classic French pie that can be a sweet or savoury. The complex creation has career-altering for Lumi Dining’s Head Chef Federico Zanellato.

The item was first featured on Lumi’s degustation menu and is the centerpiece for Zanellato’s new venture Lode Pies, which has opened in Surry Hills this year.

When Zanellato first began making pithivier, there were many trial and error sessions in the kitchen. He went on to master the technique and create a sought-after menu item. “When we went into the first lockdown, we put it on the online menu at Lumi,” says Zanellato. “It was so popular we just couldn’t keep up the production because everything was made by hand.”

The crowd response was overwhelming, and requests were soon made to buy the item outside of dining at the restaurant. The chef listened and has launched Lode Pies, that has a focus on classic French pastries and comfort food that references his early career. “When I was working at The Ritz London, there were a lot of these kinds of pastries, but I was never allowed to touch any of those unfortunately,” says Zanellato. “I was very young back then and there were always very skilled and talented chefs looking after the pithiviers and all that stuff.”

Federico Zanellato

Unlike traditional bakeries, Lode hits pause on bread and instead revolves around Zanellato’s signature puff pastry and croissant dough in varying forms. “Some people use shortcrust pastry to do the pie, but I’ve always loved the flakiness and the flavour of the puff pastry,” says Zanellato.

The shop is an exploration of iconic pastries that are complex in production, showcasing the craftsmanship involved in patisserie. But for Zanalleto, the most challenging part of Lode’s inception has been refining his dough recipe. “It all starts with the initial lamination,” he says. “The moment you crack the butter or it’s too warm and gets incorporated into the pastry, you’ve lost layers,” he says.

Following the theme of all things French, the chef is also looking to add traditional pastries to the range such as a galette des rois, chausson with pear and coconut as well as choux au craquelin. Savoury croissants will cover combinations of parmesan and sage along with ‘nduja made by Pino’s Dolce Vita.

The dessert options will elaborate and in line with the technique exhibited in the pithivier; in fact, Zanellato is planning to construct a rose-shaped cake out of croissant rolls. “We cut very small rolls and we put them next to each other,” says the chef. “But we’re not going to shape anything that looks like a croissant; we will have all different shapes. It’s more interesting than a croissant or a pain au chocolat shape.”

When it comes to shop equipment, Zanellato is taking it back to basics. Lode is currently set up for action with a dough sheeter and special chiller to store the dough, but the next obstacle is finding the right butter for the job. Although Zanellato is searching for Australian options, he says nothing compares to the French. “I would eventually love to get an Australian butter sheet, but it’s very, very hard to beat the French; it is the only thing at the moment that we are importing for the shop.”

The uncertainty of the pandemic made it tricky to navigate an official opening, but Lode had recently dabbled in a collaboration with Arthur restaurant in Surry Hills. “I think there will be other things coming up for sure,” says Zanellatto. “We are doing a lot of family sizes for Vic’s Meat at the moment and we’re probably going to do some stuff for CopperTree Farms, but that’s all for now.”

There was much anticipation around what was to come, but a bake sale at Lumi kept customers in the loop. “We’re going to focus and make sure that everything is of a super high standard and has interesting flavour combinations in the pastry.”