In the Kitchen with Chef Paul Allam

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Pillowy rolls, crispy pastries, dense cakes. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Outright adoration of the carb-y stuff is global, with each culture offering its own take on one of mankind’s most cherished indulgences. In this floury, sugar-spiked world, borders are fluid. You can find American pancakes in Japan, French croissants in Iceland, and, as of last fall, Australian lamingtons at New York City’s Bourke Street Bakery—no passport required.

Bourke Street Bakery first opened in 2004 as a small corner shop in Sydney. With chefs Paul Allam and David McGuinness at the helm, the shop became known for its sourdough bread, pastries, and sausage rolls (an Australian speciality). Fifteen years and ten additional stores later, the bakery is an Australian icon. With the opening of its first American outpost, one could argue that the brand is en route to becoming an international name, too.

From their new Nomad location, which Allam has been tasked to run, Bourke Street whips up so many types of loaves it’s hard to keep track. Spelt sourdough? They’ve got it. Challah? That, too. Bacon, cheddar, and pepperoncini roll? Couldn’t live without it, frankly. Their pastries, too, are legendary. All of this is to say, Bourke Street Bakery is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Below, Allam let us into the kitchen to talk early wake-ups, childhood occupations, and the biggest differences between Aussie and American baking.

Place of residence:

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Current occupation:

Chef/ baker.

First thing you baked as a kid, successfully or otherwise:

Chocolate almond cake, reasonably successfully.

Dish your family is famous for, for better or worse:

Mum’s crème caramel, for better.

First job you ever had and your most notable memory there:

A paper run—these things called newspapers that you dropped at people’s houses. I delivered the Mosman Daily. There was a jasmine tree that I used to love walking under in the mornings. When it was raining, my dad drove me around to make the rounds. Thanks, Dad.

Australian baking is __________:

I think you would have to carve out what bread baking is becoming, which is very source-driven. People are going back to the fields to understand what grains they can use and how they differ. Then there is cake—and everything around pastry separate from cake or otherwise—which is far more influenced by other countries, like the British, the Italians, the French, etc. Very pure for our population.

American baking is __________:

American baking is very loud and proud, big and bold. It has lots of fun with what it does. There is such a deep well of artisan baking it’s hard to say what American baking is because there are so many different strains, though it’s clear where baking is going, which is back to the source, led by the artisan bakers who are milling their own grains and working with the mills.

Biggest lesson you learned early on—what was it and who taught you?

That ingredient is the most important thing as a base for any great product. — Alex Herbert

What time do you wake up?

4 a.m.

What time do you go to bed?

Around 11 p.m., hopefully before.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

Yes, we love music in the bakery. We play music based off the mood or time of the day. It changes all the time—we do love some rock and roll though.

Most popular item at Bourke Street Bakery:

New York: Sausage Roll / BEC ( bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich).

Aus: Sourdough/ Sausage Rolls.

Your idea of the perfect order at Bourke Street:

Piccolo, our seasonal fruit danish, our house-made granola.

Ingredient you go through the most of:

Avocado.

Cookbook every aspiring baker should own:

Understanding Baking: The Art and Science of Baking.

Street you miss in Australia:

Bondi Road.

Street you’ve come to love in New York City:

Doyers Street in Chinatown. It’s busy and there is always something going on.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” — my mum.

Photos courtesy of Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.

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