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BlogFeb 15, 2024

Baking Community Bonds: Aube Sourdough Bakery by Christoph, Jean-Yves & Thomas

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Aube Bakery stands out as a unique and lively multicultural spot, offering top-quality sourdough products in a former garage in Forest.

In our latest portrait series, we bring you to Aube, an artisanal bakery nestled in a corner of Forest. We sat down in this welcoming industrial place with a bergamot croissant and chatted with Christoph Nagel and Jean-Yves Pécourt, two of the three co-founders along with Thomas Kok. We talked about their team dynamics, their commitment to ultra-quality sourdough baking and how this project went from dream to reality.

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Q: Can you introduce yourself and your project Aube? What was the inspiration behind it?

C: We’re Christoph and Jean-Yves and together with Thomas Kok, we founded Aube bakery. For me, it was a total career shift as I had an office job for many years, working in marketing for a tech company based in New York. The idea of this place was to create a vibrant place, focusing on sourdough products and that we thought was missing in the neighborhood.

J-Y: When it comes to baking, the intention was to keep the bread range short with controlled sourcing and a focus on quality.

As for my background, I started a career change in the bakery sector ten years ago. I then worked in some fairly high quality sourdough bakeries before landing in Paris. I also worked for the chef Thierry Marx. Then, I worked for Les Moulins Bourgeois. That's where I met Christoph and together we came up with the idea of creating a bakery that combines beauty and quality.

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Q: What do you like the most about running a bakery?

C: First of all, when you create a project like that, you always have a mental picture on how it's gonna be. For us, it was to create an hybrid living space with an offer of high-quality bread, where people can sit inside or on a terrace and have a good time. Generally, you picture this, but it's not concrete. Except that here, it's precisely as I imagined it. And that's the best feeling ever!

The second aspect I love is the diversity of the audience we manage to attract here. We meet an extremely mixed and rich audience. You've got the locals from Forest which is a pretty multi-cultural neighborhood, you've got for example Jean-Claude, who's nearly eighty-one, a lot of Flemish people too, settling more and more recently. And everyone gathers here, queues up and has to talk to each other. It creates a welcoming, homely atmosphere. And that's what we were looking for.

J-Y: I agree! We had our objectives and it's great to see that we've succeeded in creating the dynamic we really wanted to set in motion. In production, for example, it's about building a great team, creating cohesion and coherence in our offer, harmonizing the choreography, having collaborators who are committed, who want to create and explore more possibilities.

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Q: Speaking about the team, who are the different people or roles within the bakery?

C: There are always two aspects in bakeries or places like ours. There's the sales/service side and the production/workshop part. On the sales/service side, the team is minimal with two permanent staff and several students. And I help with the operational side too.

J-Y: In terms of production/workshop, we have our pastry chef, Antoine, specialized in pastries. He's the one who does the work of the dough and fine baking. Romain is the baker. His initial role is to run the oven. Generally, he's coming in at night with me. There's also Luay who's our savoury preparer. He's taking care of the snacking part with Christoph. Denise is Antoine's assistant. And we have Corinne who is a pétrin assistant, too.

For the moment, I'm the dough kneader, so I'm the one who's going to throw the dough. But the idea is that everyone can switch over if they feel like it and doesn’t set up a routine that's can be frustrating on the long term. In this idea, we offer the possibility to our team to train in other areas of baking.

C: We try as much as possible to let the people shine on their own. If you're part of our team, it's because of your qualities and skills. We obviously need good performers, but that's not all we're looking for. We want to get the most out of each individual. Each person has a talent, and that's how you build a great team. This team is also very multi-cultural and inter-generational. We have Luay which is Iraqi and comes with a unique cultural background. Then there's Denise, who's in her sixties and has decided to start a second career. We also have Rosalie and Laura who are flemish but bilingual. This results in a lot of creativity and openness.

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Q: In what ways do you think the branded caps enhance the overall identity and image of Aube Bakery?

C: This place started as a rough industrial spot – a former petrol station, then a garage. While its rawness was interesting, we had to somehow bring a bit of warmth and a distinct identity.

When we got here, the big red beam was already there. We decided to embrace this red color and we created our identity to suit the location. Opting for a vibrant red became the cornerstone of our identity, resulting in a slightly sporty, vintage aesthetic.

Then, it seemed quite logical to have a uniform that would allow us to identify ourselves as a team. Thus, we opted for aprons and caps, not only as stylish accessories but also as indispensable tools in the workshop, given the demands of the food industry. Our choice of an off-white and red color scheme serves as a distinctive marker, and the embroidery featuring our red logo is intentionally simple, straightforward, and highly effective. The team loves it (at least that’s what they say) and wear it not only in the bakery but also when they go running or on the-day-to-day.

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Q: Do you have a personal favorite pastry or bread at Aube Bakery, or is there a house special?

J-Y: My go-to is the signature sourdough bread. It's a farmhouse bread crafted a blend of wheat and buckwheat, complemented by a touch of amaranth flour. It's not very common, but it's gluten-free and very, very rich in protein. This results in a nurishing bread with a less acidic, somewhat earthier taste. It's my favourite, along with the bergamot croissant.

C: For me, it's the savoury square. We change them regularly, but I'm quite a fan of savoury products. Here in Belgium, it's a little less common, we're generally more into sweet viennoiseries. Take the example of the honey feta square with a little seed topping that we have in the morning. We also made a raclette square, a reference to winter, with a young Swiss raw milk cheese and bacon flakes. And we'd like to develop more savory viennoiseries in the future.

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Q: Can you tell me more about the sourcing of your products?

J-Y: For our products, we try to carefully select the best references for each ingredient, but always considering relevance. While not everything in our range is strictly organic or certified, it doesn't mean we overlook these aspects. We deliberately avoid using only organic ingredients but try to remain logical. Take, for instance, organic pumpkin seeds; though sourced from China in some cases, we've opted for non-organic ones from Spain, reducing the distance traveled and environmental impact. We've thought our entire range this way, as a pragmatic and logical sourcing. We also want to maintain a very high quality aspect while staying competitive and affordable.

C: For the flour, we work with exclusive organic flour from ‘Les moulins bourgeois’. Similarly, for butter, we rely on Isigny butter or pink butter. We also try to integrate the local players as much as possible. For instance, we work with the non-profit organisation Bloom, which is next door and provides us with seasonal organic fruit and vegetables. Lastly, the cheeses comes from ‘La Fruitière’ cheese dairy, centrally located in the town.

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