Chu is a little patch of heaven for anybody willing to wait in line. The tiny bakery has appeared just short of bursting at the seams from just moments after their opening in 2015. We spoke to owner and baker Ryan Chu about sourdough, Hyde Park, and the small ambitions which created the longest queues in Highgate.
Small Space, Humble Beginnings
"After my second year working as a baker I become really interested in sourdough bread. There weren’t many places making it, so I started to make my own. I kept experimenting and eventually got to a point where I thought I wanted to share it with everyone- that was the start of the business."
Ryan and his wife Seren saw out their vision in the lease of an unexciting but well located corner store on William street. Taking the bare minimum of space they needed for Ryan's baking and for Seren to create pastries. Leaving just enough space for a snaking line of customers and deliveries. "It’s a limitation but we make it work," said Ryan, "we’d love a few more square metres."
Ryan and Seren wanted to create just enough for the local community, without wholesale orders or expansion. Expecting a slow start, the couple were shocked by just how well their venue resonated with the community. "It was really flattering to see people come as far as they’ve come from to buy our pastries and bread. It was a happy surprise, we were expecting to be very low key, very quiet. Instead we were working just about all of the time." said Ryan.
French Inspired, Fiercely Local
"The French patisserie acted as a kind of blueprint," said Ryan, "We fell in love with the old traditional style of breads and pastries, and cakes, and although we love it we did want to modernise it in our own way, to create different aesthetics while respecting the original."
Ryan heads the bakery team, creating "base product, the doughnuts, the croissants, the eclairs, tarts," staging and preparing everything for Seren's pastry team. "They do the fillings, the garnishing. It's all a two step process."
He turns back to their small and local values as a nexus to focus on constant improvement in their products: "We try to source the highest quality we can get, and to make everything from scratch so we can control every component in our pastries and our bread."
"All our wheat is stone floured wheat from Gunnedah in New South Wales, they have a large stone mill and support a lot of small farms. We buy organic wheat and get to contribute to sustainable, environmental farming with a small ecological footprint. It's really important to us." he said.
Ryan and Seren's attention to detail extends out to coffee offerings among the best in Perth. As well as admitting themselves as fierce coffee drinkers, they realised that opening in the midst of Perth's specialty coffee revolution would mean getting serious about their brewing.
"We take every component of our business super seriously, we can't focus on any one thing and let another go." said Ryan, "Coffee is a religion in Australia, we knew we had to get it right."
"We've always loved Dukes and developed a really good relationship with the roaster and owner while they were roasting in Small Print. Simon the roaster was incredibly supportive and knowledgable, and was excited about our project."
A glance at Chu's long queues when driving past may be enough to dissuade many, but while easy to dismiss it as Highgate hipster trend obsession, it's encouraging to remember that the venue's owners are firing up each morning from 2am, all with the simple ambition to serve their local area with the best they can bake.
When we asked Ryan what was next for Chu, his answer was simple: "There's no desire to expand, we just want to continue to refine our product, make it better and more accessible, and give the community as much of our product as we possibly can."