A Dishin’ the Dirt profile.
Gregoire Michaud is the man behind popular Wan Chai bakery-slash-cafe Bakehouse. Hailing from Valais, Switzerland but calling Asia home for the last 25 years, Michaud tells us what it’s like to bake in Hong Kong, and his ultimate favorite ingredient.
How did you get into pastry making?
I love eating candies. And as a kid, we didn’t have the luxury of having candies whenever we wanted. The day I discovered I could do crepes by myself and eat them all, I knew this was my true calling. I learned the basics from mom, as baking was an important topic at home. Thereafter, I embarked in proper learning.
You used to be an exec pastry chef at a five-star hotel (Four Seasons Hong Kong). Why did you decide to branch out on your own?
On my first day at work, when I was 15 years old, I had to bring breads to the display shelves in the shop. It was 2am and I was alone in the shop. I looked around and saw shelves of cups, the till, bags for take away… and I told myself: “This is so cool! One day, I will have my own shop!” It took me 26 years to do it, just because it was never the right time on so many occasions. Being humble about being ready is key!
“The day I discovered I could do crepes by myself and eat them all, I knew this was my true calling.”
What’s the secret to a delicious pastry?
It’s eating that pastry, prepared by people who know how to do it properly. Then you have a reference on what you are working towards. After that, it’s sourcing ingredients and having the skills. But knowing what you’re working towards is the main secret!
What have you learned in all these years of baking in Hong Kong?
I learned how to juggle with humidity in the air in regards to baking. I learned how to adapt my textures and taste for Hong Kong customers. And over the last few years, I have learnt a great deal about logistics, deliveries, and storage, which is truly a science on its own in a city like Hong Kong. Baking bread is the easy part, but I find that delivering it in the right condition is much more difficult.
What’s your favorite pastry or dessert?
I actually love a nice rye sourdough bread. I’ll toast it and depending on the mood and time of the day, I top it with sweet or savories. That makes my day more than any other complicated pastry or dessert.
What’s your favorite ingredient, ever?
Flour… I think it’s one of the most understated ingredients of all. It conceals so much potential within its simple appearance. Whether we are baking scones, cookies, breads or croissants; if we were to compare ourselves to painters, our oven would be our canvas and our paint would be the flour.