One of our very first clients is a Chicago Belgian Bakery: the Renaud Hendrickx Bread Crafter. This nice Artisan Bakery is located in Downtown Chicago, on East Walton Street.
A Chicago Belgian Bakery interview
How did you get started as an Artisan Baker?
I started about 20 years ago when I opened a coffee shop in Nassau, Bahamas called Belgian Waffles. We sold the Liege and the Brussels waffles, being famous all over the world, it was an instant success. But we had to add some other bakery items. So we added croissants, apple turnovers and a selection of breads, the most famous one being the Belgian Country Bread. When I was 14, every day at the ‘recreation’ at the end of the day in my little boarding school we were given a piece of bread with a chunk of dark chocolate. That bread was the best I had ever tasted.
But it was never to be found again as it seemed to be the artisanal work of the baker in that little village and thus not to be found elsewhere. The only way I was ever going to find that delicious bread would be to make it myself! So I worked days on end until my ‘memories’ were finally satisfied with the result. Since then, I make that bread everyday with just 4 ingredients – flour – water – yeast and a bit of salt.
As the time passed, we added some other specialties like crêpes and then some savory items such as quiches, sandwiches, salads… But we always kept the same philosophy – everything is made from scratch on the premises using the best ingredients.
What is your pastry specialty?
Our puff pastry that we produce in the most traditional way (the whole process take 18 hours). We have different versions:
- the one we use to make our croissants – 13 different ones – plain, Belgian chocolate, almond paste, pistachio paste, Amarena cherries, Hazelnuts, Gruyere, Bacon & Gruyere… and our last one the Croizang (triple chocolate)
- the one we use for the Napoleons or for the Kings’ cake (Galette des rois) and the inverted sweetened puff pastry that we use for our very special Hazelnut Praline Mille-Feuilles.
What is the importance of good quality ingredients?
Obviously using the best ingredients is of utmost importance to any food preparation. You cannot produce something that tastes good with poor quality ingredients. We use the best flour, the best butter, the best almond paste, the best Belgian chocolate, real vanilla extract… even if they cost much more. Our customers have high expectations and are well traveled. They can recognize the quality and understand why we are more expensive than most other bakeries. When you bake everything from scratch and put lots of efforts in the production process you will not jeopardize your efforts by using average quality ingredients.
What have you bought from Chef Jean Pierre?
So far some chocolate, some specialty flours like almond flour, spelt flour… and those have met our quality standards. It’s always nice to have someone new entering the market, especially someone specialized in baking ingredients and someone interested in working with artisans. A lot of the wholesalers have no interest for us as they want to serve only the larger accounts with mainstream brands and products. Their buyers are not interested to source specialty ingredients. They want to deal with the large producers.
Is there anything you wish we could carry?
At this time, we are still discovering your product range, so we’ll keep you posted 🙂 The main adjustment is placing an order more ahead of time than with a regular supplier with whom you place your order at 9 PM at night to have items delivered 8 hours later.
What has your experience been like with Chef Jean Pierre?
So far so good. All the persons we have dealt with are nice and helpful and stay in touch after their first visit 🙂