Why Flour and Stone’s croissant is worth every dollar
Quality will disappear unless we start supporting small food producers, argues Flour and Stone founder and baker Nadine Ingram.
Around the same time people started putting cost above quality, makers moved to shorter product life or reduced quality. Things aren’t made to last longer anymore, and the decision to make things in a cheaper manner has been driven by the customer.
I am confronted every day by the challenge to make things quicker and without compromising the integrity of our products. ‘Work hard, be generous and the rest will follow’ is my maxim and drives my core values.
You see, I have an innate insecurity and fear that anyone might dare suggest I would reserve something for my own selfish gain. Hence, my lashing out at the recent allegation that a $6 croissant “is a joke”.
My core values centre around staff, customers, quality of ingredients and the production of a range of beautifully baked products that reflect imagination and skill, while charging a price that will encourage customers to relive their experience. This standard is one I share with many small producers out there who want to do the right thing ethically.
The decision to stay small costs money. Big makers might negotiate discounts on pallets of flour, whereas we have no space for storage and pay a premium for it. The space issue also has a knock-on effect. We need to take in deliveries every day, which means having someone rostered to receive product ingredients.
Our batch sizes remain small. Though, they are testament to our quality and enable us to maintain consistency. The flip side is the cost of labour to produce a smaller batch is more. We choose quality before profit.
Our decision to only use the best ingredients affects our bottom line dramatically.
When we decide to put three sticks of chocolate in the pain au chocolat, it has to be Valrhona because it is the best. Some might think going above the standard one stick and putting in two is enough, but it’s the complete lack of restraint that is key here. Some say there’s a proper ratio of chocolate and three is over the top. I say to those people stop being so calculating. It’s like when you approach someone and you don’t know whether to hug or kiss them — the awkwardness can be uncomfortable. Think ahead and approach everyone with a full on hug and kiss. It’s the same as three sticks of chocolate; no one is going to squirm in the embrace if it’s given unreservedly.
Of course, there is also my heartfelt obligation to training the next wave of bakers. We have teamed up with Brickfields, Kristen Allan Cheesemaker, Coffee Alchemy and Ms Peacock Fine Chocolates to bring a career development program to our staff. A little off-site excursion to these artisan producers every now and then works wonders for their souls. Not to mention Mary our croissant maestro who trains members of staff three times a week to improve our sense of value and worth as a team.
Most small producers are artisan by both design and financial necessity. Artisan doesn’t of course guarantee the highest quality, but rest assured, those involved are doing the best they can in their own circumstances. They believe their customers will show enough faith in these products to give producers the heart to strive to do even better. There are choices to be made by every one of us.
This column originally appeared in Hospitality’s April issue with the headline “The Embrace of a warm pain au chocolat”. Nadine Ingram will sit down for a Q&A with Bird Cow Fish’s Alex Herbert at Hospitality’s annual conference for the foodservice industry Hospitality Leaders Summit on Monday 29 July at Royal Randwick Racecourse. Tickets are available here.
Image credit: Petrina Tinslay