Sunday, 4 August 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Gerhard Jenne and Konditor & Cook

Baking at home is one of the most rewarding and satisfying everyday experiences, but even as a baking obsessive I occasionally don’t have the time, ingredients or yes, the inclination to make my own sweet treats. At such times when the cake cupboard is bare I only wish that there were a Konditor & Cook nearby to satisfy my rampant hunger for something beautifully baked.

Konditor & Cook has been serving some of the finest cakes, breads, pies and pastries in London for over 20 years. It is not only one of my favourite bakeries, but a glowing example of how to maintain a competitive baking business, without compromising on creativity or quality. Whenever I brave the big smoke it is always on my list of places to visit, so when I was granted a quick Q&A with its founder, konditormeister and all round good egg Gerhard Jenne I jumped at the chance (I actually did a little jump)…

Baking has been a big part of your life from a very young age. Who has been the single biggest influence on your career?

My mother and my oldest of two sisters baked cakes every Saturday. Then my second sister sealed my fate by getting engaged to our village baker. A summer job turned into an inspiration to take baking up professionally.

It was when I came to London that I ended up for Justin de Blank Provisions. Justin and his business partner Robert Troop were the biggest influence on my career. They were food revolutionaries back in the late 70's and 80's, their approach to honest fresh food, personal customer service and creating a positive working environment gave me the confidence to set up on my own.

What inspires you?

Running Konditor & Cook is like putting on a show; creating food for that our customers enjoy is a great motivator. Konditor & Cook is a double act of fresh, seasonal savoury food coupled with everyday tempting bakes as well as providing decorative cakes for special occasions.

Visiting markets and experiencing a breadth of food is a great inspiration, the more decorative elements to our cakes are often inspired by art or fashion.

We are not re-inventing the wheel with baking, but making old recipes more relevant, i.e giving at a wheat free of dairy free twist is challenging.

Many years ago I read the novel Perfume by Patrick Sueskind it seemed to heighten my sense of smell and awoke the alchemist in me, similarly the Flavour Thesaurus by Nicky Segnit, a great reference book about flavour pairings can be source of great inspiration.

What makes your cakes and pastries so special?

We don’t compromise on quality; free-range organic eggs, natural butter, fresh fruit, made in small batches - this gives the cake personality & depth of flavour. We are celebrating our 20th Birthday this year and our quality has been consistent throughout.

You have a made cakes for a variety of high profile clientele. What order has been your biggest challenge?

Making the Queen's portrait out of 3120 hand-dipped and coloured cakes for the Diamond Jubilee was certainly the biggest challenge to date. But coming up with solution for Sir Terence Conran's 80th Birthday Cake was a baking and design challenge. It needed to be spectacular, yet nothing like a wedding or novelty cake. and to come up with a design for a personality who himself has shaped a Nation's taste was also challenging. I provided Lady Conran with an illustration of what I was planning. The fact that Terence Conran then redrew the sketch in his own style and gave it to Wallpaper Magazine as a one-off cover was proof that he liked what we came up with.

Has there been any request you’ve had to turn down?

Design wise we pretty much try to rise to any challenge. What we can't accommodate anymore is baking a completely bespoke recipe for wholesale customers as our range of recipes is already quite wide?

Which cake is your biggest seller and why do you think that is?

Our best selling cake is the Curly Whirly Cake, it outsells everything else by miles. It's a really moist chocolate sponge filled and frosted with  real vanilla bean frosting, then covered in curly, whirly, swirls (inspired by Gustav Klimt).

What is your favourite cake to make and to eat at home?

I love the almond fruit tarts, a great basic recipe that can play host to seasonal fruits and flavours, right now it's fresh peaches and raspberries, coming up next sun-kissed apricots.

Is there any type of cake you don’t like?

I don't like the taste of cover pastes or industrially made cakes, or mince pies where the pastry is more reminiscent of cardboard than short pastry.

What single piece of advice would you give to home bakers?

Don't give up if a recipes turns out wrong the first time round, it takes a lot of bakes to tease the very best out of a recipe. Our brownies have definitely gone through a long evolution and are now gorgeously indulgent. Domestic ovens are a law onto themselves, temperature settings are often inaccurate or the heat is 'aggressive'. I'm always amazed how quickly cakes go just a bit to dark in my own oven.

What do you think will be the next big trend in baking?

I'm not sure if it will be the eclair as so often proclaimed by the press. 
We are going into miniaturization, smaller versions of big cakes or min bakes. Customers want the treat, but not 600 calories in one big whopping slice of cake.

Right now everything is quite rustic and natural, this trend will continue, it signifies the difference between factory and artisan. Although in the design conscious age we live in home bakers and professionals will try and put their own stamp onto recipes and finishes may get a bit more decorative.

What's next for you and the business?

I'm currently writing a recipe book (published by Ebury Press) with my favourite recipes from the last 20 years. Publication is planned for May 2014.

My partner Paul Cons is now the MD of Konditor & Cook. We have a great international family working for us, developing and forging the right teams is a constant challenge. Next up is a move forward with our website we would like to make the process of ordering online easier and expand our cake delivery service.

To find our more about Konditor & Cook or to purchase online, please visit 

No comments:

Post a Comment