The Baker, The Patissier and the Cook
From the kitchen bench to a destination café in Kuluin with a team of up to twenty, Deb Caruso explores the wonderful world of The Wonky Loaf.
Katie Faulkner said it had been a wonky and wonderful journey since starting The Wonky Loaf in 2018 from her kitchen bench in Palmwoods.
Her 100 percent organic sourdough bread struck a chord long before the covid-induced sourdough surge and so as the interest in this culture took off, so did Katie’s business.
The equipment and manpower she needed to keep up with demand was too much and she needed a solution.
“Fate intervened and the universe brought Alana and Anthony to me as business partners,” she said. “They were excited about my product and the potential to share it with more people and now we have this beautiful café, production facility and a more sustainable business.”
The Wonky Loaf café opened in Kuluin 18 months ago and services four market stalls at Kawana, Yandina, Noosa, Eumundi and in the future, Caloundra.
Wonky Loaves are also part of the Good Harvest home delivery boxes; stocked in Flying West Coffee Roasters, Doonan and Silo Wholefoods, Yandina.
“The Good Harvest team helped me break into the markets; Nicky from Silo Wholefoods was the first person who took my bread; and we use Flying West coffee in the café so it’s been a beautiful community that has helped me on the journey and they’re still part of it.”
The product range has expanded from bread into baked goods using quality slow-fermented sourdough to deliver pastries, pies and cakes. They also offer ready-made frozen meals and sourdough pizza bases that sell-out daily.
“Everything we do is made from organic sourdough, even the things you wouldn’t expect,” Katie said. “People recognise sourdough as bread but we’ve proven you can add live sourdough culture to pie dough, croissants, pastries, pain au chocolat and more.”
Alana runs the café operations while Katie oversees the kitchen team which includes pastry chefs, bakers, a bakery assistant chef and sandwich artisans.
“Not using any baker’s yeast shocks people when they first come to work here, it’s a transition but they learn to love it,” she said. “I have two old school Aussie bakers who have converted into the way of the sourdough; and two pastry chefs who are very different characters.
“Chase Rogers brings 20 years’ experience baking in Australia, and he’s been with us since the start. He’s super reliable and just bangs out great pastries and deserves a lot of credit.”
New to the team is classically-trained Frenchman, Benjamin Bauer.
“He’s super skilled and has had to convert to a whole new way of doing things – but I think he loves the challenge,” Katie said. “His beautiful, artistic creations look the same as standard baking but their soul is fermented wheat.”
Benjamin grew up in a small town next to Versailles just outside Paris.
From a young age, he would bake alongside his mother and when he was around 10, his older brother’s friend was studying to be a pâtissier and would come to the house to make cakes and pastries for dinner parties and events.
“I was always amazed at how people would react – the ‘wow’ effect and ability to make people happy,” Benjamin said. “I’m a pleaser by nature so it was a no-brainer to pursue this career.”
In 2019, he moved to Australia for love and fell in love with Queensland. Working in Brisbane for the likes of Nodo learning how to make gluten free goodies; he also worked for Le Caprice in Bulimba and Le Bon Choix before joining The Wonky Loaf.
“It was a challenge baking with 100 percent sourdough,” he said. “Croissant dough and le pain chocolat is made traditionally with yeast and sometimes with a mix of sourdough so it has taken a few trials but now we have it right. It amazes me when I see them coming out of the oven and they are perfect. It’s a surprise and delight every time.”
Benjamin’s favourite creation? The Chocolate Whisper Tart – chocolate shortcrust, soft salted caramel, dark chocolate ganache and milk chocolate chantilly topped with cacao nibs.
Asked if he would go back to using yeast and traditional methods, he was quick to say “I don’t think so”.
“People are mindful of what they eat and what they buy and they want to know what goes into the product,” he said. “The Wonky Loaf is getting more popular and I’m proud and happy to be part of the revolution.”
Katie said what goes inside the sourdough creations was just as important as the shell itself.
“Our cook, Hannah, is amazing and understands that everything must be the same standard as the organic flour we use, the French butter, the local ham – it all has to be followed.
Hannah Kara is one of the food wizards behind the delicious treats found in the cabinets as well as the creator of the take-home freezer meal range.
“Katie, Benjamin and the team do a fantastic job creating our sourdough products and pastries and I have the responsibility of showcasing that as well as working with local producers and sourcing what’s in season,” she said.
“We make things from scratch and minimise wastage. The jalapenos in our chicken toasties are pickled here; we use sourdough breadcrumbs in our meatballs; make our own relish; and are fermenting our own chilis to replace siracha sauce.”
Hannah seeks inspiration from what is created in the bakery.
“Our Parmesan truffle mushroom soup pairs beautifully with a toasted light seed loaf; and Ribbolita is a traditional Italian tomato stew with beans, cavolo nero and pancetta that is perfect with leftover sourdough to soak up the flavour.
With the baker, pâtissier, cook and all the other wonky and wonderful team, Katie says she didn’t set out to take over the world, but it seems the world has come around to her wonky ways.