I began noticing master boulanger 吳寶春 Wu Pao Chun when he first appeared in one of my favorite Taiwanese forum talk shows 新闻哇哇挖 upon returning to Taiwan, after winning the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie aka Bakery World Cup in Paris five years ago. Since then, he has been hailed as a 台湾之光 “Glory of Taiwan” alongside acclaimed director, Lee Ang, an honour accredited by the local Taiwanese press to their fellow countrymen who had achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim of sorts. This does not come easily for anyone from Taiwan, a country which has yet to be formally acknowledged by UN, and whose existence is constantly under pressure and threat across the straits from Mainland China. Since returning to Taiwan, Wu set up his first artisan bread bakery in Kaohsiung before opening another in Taipei the next year. Our previous trips to Taiwan had always been filled with pastries and cakes more than anything else, so for our most recent trip, we finally decided to make our way to Wu’s bakery located at Eslite Spectrum Song Yan Store.
Over the last year or so, we saw several new patisseries and boulangeries coming up in Singapore. International names like Paul and Maison Kayser made it to our shores and yet, we also saw several local establishments like Antoinette bloom. The latest new kid on the block is of course Laduree. But the one which garnered the most raves and truly worthy of the limelight is undoubtedly Tiong Bahru Bakery.
Yet another F&B venture after their incredibly successful Tippling Club and Skinny Pizza, the folks behind Food Collective under the Spa Esprit Group flew in the suave and dynamic Parisian boulanger Gontran Cherrier to helm this establishment. Born into a family of bakers and patissiers who passed down the know-hows of the trade from generation to generation, Cherrier subsequently received his professional training at l’Ecole Ferrandi, and then l’Ecole de Boulangerie et de Pâtisserie de Paris. Stints at l’Arpège alongside Alain Passard and later Lucas Carton with Alain Senderen, as well as the growing up experience in a family-owned boulangerie by generations of traditional bread makers help to shape and sharpen Cherrier to become what he is today. Yet interestingly, the bakery did not bear the “GC” label, umlike those in Paris as well as Tokyo. “Tiong Bahru Bakery” with a name unassuming and reminiscent of an old school confectionery which many of us here in Singapore may affectionately remember was thus born. But being rustic and nostalgic are hardly the hues and tones this artisan bakery exudes. Those who come in search of traditional kaya toast and egg tarts would be surprised… pleasantly surprised…