Aerospace engineer and a reject from MasterChef Australia season 1 auditions, Kate Reid has gone on to become a global phenomenon as she beats some of the best chefs around the world with her awesome croissant skills.
Known for the "World's Best Croissant", Kate's cult patisserie churns out 8500 croissants a week made according to her unique recipe that is a holy balance of buttery heft and feathery flake. As if that is not enough, she is also known to have created the World's first cruffin in 2013 (a croissant-muffin hybrid).
International Business Times, India, had a chat with her about the culinary journey.
Can you tell us a little bit about when did you start cooking? When did you realize your passion for cooking?
So before working in food, I was an aerospace engineer and was working in the Formula 1 industry and that was something I wanted to do for my entire life. I loved mathematical and technical challenges. Designing formula one car was a dream job for me.
Later on, I realized I needed some creative freedom and some space to be happy with my job. And the only part of my day I liked was to go home at the end of the day and get cooking. I started researching recipes and travelled to farms and markets to understand ingredients. I wanted to become far more creative in cooking.
I realized I prefer to be cooking all day. So this was in my twenties, I realised that my career in Formula 1 is not something I would pursue long term. And I wanted to wake up every morning and do the thing that genuinely made me happy and not do that just at the end of the day.
I realized it was my calling at the time when I was not getting much satisfaction from my job at Formula 1. A lot of people just go to work to pay the bills but I want to go to work and feel happy for every single moment. If you are not loving what you are doing and have the opportunity to change then why would not we take that opportunity?
You spoke about mathematical challenges and your learnings as an aerospace engineer. Do you think that somewhere helped you in baking croissants?
Oh, 100 percent. The fact that I am an aerospace engineer has made me approach baking from a scientific and engineering mindset. We solve problems, experiment and focus on every single variable when it comes to baking and that way, bring the best croissant to our customers.
In fact, the process that we use to make croissant is different from every other bakery because I spent one month in France working at a patisserie and then I eventually decided to start Lune. With ignorance, I thought I had all sorted but instead of going back to school, I decided to figure all of it out by myself by reverse engineering and by experimenting with a croissant. And because of that, with every different technique, I improvised my croissant.
The transition that I made from aerospace to baking is exactly what the MasterChef contestants are trying and hoping to make themselves I think.
You had auditioned for MasterChef Australia earlier as well and did not make it through. As you were so very passionate about cooking, you came back with a bang. Can you tell us a little bit about the transformation and your journey?
When I was in high school, I had to go and visit my counsellor and I remember telling her that I want to study aerospace engineering and design cars for Formula 1. And she laughed at me saying that I should change my goals and that I cannot study engineering and pick something more realistic.
And that might have been demotivating for many but it was really very inspiring to me. And I looked at her and thought that I am going to show you and prove it to you that I can do it. And when I did not make it through in the MasterChef Australia.
Again that would be very demotivating to many but Matt actually said 'Yes' to me for going through and the other two had not agreed on that. And when the episode aired on TV, after I left the room, Matt turned to other two judges and said that she left her job to get here and she cooks pretty well! And I saw that and I thought that if Matt believed in me then that is enough for me to push on by myself.
And at the time I was in my late twenties and I just have to work hard for it and I could be good enough. I understood that I will have to work from the bottom and start with some experience. I loved my journey at the very beginning. It was hard work that became easy because I loved what I was doing.
Did you have any influences growing up? Someone who inspired you?
Well, in terms of culinary, just after I was out of MasterChef Australia, I worked for a Greek woman. One of the owners of a tiny little café near my house in Lune. And she has been the most beautiful chef that I have ever met. She made the most stunning Mediterranean cuisine from scratch in that little kitchen.
And one of the chefs who inspired her was Yotam Ottolenghi and she had a copy of one his cookbooks in the restaurant and I would refer to this incredible cookbook and be so enchanted by the delicious looking dishes.
He totally has opened up the world to the Mediterranean and middle east dishes and made it sexy and beautiful. His cookbook should be in every single house. Everyone knows this man; he has inspired many people and certainly me.
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?? - ONE NIGHT ONLY - Our good friends down at @rockwellandsons are planning a pretty insane collaboration tonight. They are putting their burger flavours inside our zonts... . ?Lunified Double Patty Smash Croissant? . ?Lunified Fried Chicken Croissant? . If you love Lune and you love Rockwell, this is probably going to make your head explode. - #lunecroissant #rockwellandsons #lunexrockwell
Today your croissants are known as the best in the world. You are known as the Queen of Croissant. Tell us a little bit about your journey. What made you think about nothing else but croissant?
When I was in France, Croissant was a pastry that incorporated all the ingredients that make me happy. It is a dish that requires precision and is scientific to an extent. It is not like making a brownie or a cupcake that you can just whisk up the batter. Croissant requires three days of multiple things.
And it made me so happy! When I got that to Australia, every bakery had the product but I felt they were made with zero love and hence were not that good. I remember that feeling – I truly loved making them and I thought I could start a business that would just make a croissant. I wanted to focus on one and try to perfect it.
Tell me about your favourite dessert? Is it a croissant?
My favourite dessert is something quite different. When I was a little kid, my mum would make an apricot cheesecake. And it was a very simple dessert and to this day, it is still my favourite. I have many wonderful childhood memories associated with the dish.
What do you love the most about your job as a chef?
I love the fact that I get to go to work every day and do something that I truly love. And work with the products that I have such deep knowledge about and I can speak with such confidence.
When I was an engineer, every day when I went to work, I was not very satisfied and felt like I was pretending to be something that did not fit right.
I love the staff that works at Lune. I love to work with them an overall, I love absolutely everything about my job. Would not change a thing.
Have you ever tried Indian food?
Oh my god I love Indian food. I think there are a few Indian restaurants in Melbourne but I feel I need to visit India to truly get the authentic taste of the cuisine. I like the vegetarian curry the most. And I like it the most with a really good naan or roti. And eat it with my hand, something so fulfilling an experience.
How has your cooking evolved over the years?
I think that is a tough question for me to answer because my business is primarily involved around croissant. When I got back from France, I only spent a month working in the bakery over there and when I got back and started Lune, I realized maybe I did not know the real part of the home production process of making a croissant and instead of going back to school to learn that I worked my job and also Lune which had a pretty positive effect on my cooking.
Every single time we made croissant, we made sure to challenge the process of cooking and improvise and constantly pushed towards improving it. And I am not just talking about cooking. I cook dinner at home, various dishes, but cooking at Lune was learning about our equipment, our ingredients, our customers and our product.
And I hope that in 10 or 20 years from now our croissant is much better than what we are making now and that we are constantly pushing towards perfection.
You can stream MasterChef Australia season 11 on Star World and other platforms.