I travelled across my favourite West Gate bridge to Bretzel.biz so I could be there waiting for Annette and Les' beautiful bretzels as they came straight out of the oven, fresh and hot. It was baking day, the day they open the cafe to customers. They have just come back from holidays and have been sorely missed by the regulars, some of whom came through the door while I was there.
Follow their facebook page to keep up to date with where they will be trading next
It could be argued that the correct name is bretzel, not pretzel, but all that matters is that Annette and Les' bretzels are well known and need no introduction. They are plump, fresh, chewy, and salted. I daresay its the best savoury bretzel I've ever tasted and once you have tried it, it leaves you with a yearning to search out where Bretzel.biz is going to be trading next.
Bretzels were everywhere in Mannheim, where Annette grew up. Migrating to Melbourne in 1987 and initially working as a nurse, Annette missed her bretzels. A visiting cousin from Germany, a pastry chef-cum-baker who knew all about making bretzels changed all this and Bretzel.biz was born. Annette had found her passion. She vaguely remembered reading somewhere that someone in Canada became a millionaire making bretzels and thought to herself, if he can, she can too. Such is her spirit, it's no wonder Bretzel.biz has grown from strength to strength since its conception. She is still very passionate about her bretzels and has since invented her own recipe for sweet bretzels.
The small cafe is only open on days bretzels are being baked on the premises
Bretzel.biz began life in the city centre of Geelong in 2002 where it continued until 2008. They used to share the ovens of Weiser's bakery in Geelong and over time as their business grew, found it was too far for deliveries. Since moving to their current, more convenient premises, they can respond quicker to fulfil the needs of their customers. They have delivered up to 2000 bretzels in a day.
A flick of the hand, a twist of the wrist; the traditional shape of the bretzel remains in tact in the hands of the masters
Annette tells me it's taken twelve years to establish in Melbourne as back in the day when they started, the days before Master Chef, food was basic and plain and bretzels were not a familiar item. Her passion and belief in her product has had a lot to do with its growth, not to mention her always supportive 'Handlanger' Les, an ex Myer employee who worked there as a manager for 20 years. Between Myer and Bretzel.biz, Les would work around 70 hours a week. He tells me cheekily, 'behind every successful woman is a good man'.
Selling to bars, German clubs, schools, and delicatessens.
From South Africa, Les met Annette when she came out to visit her father's mission station in Namibia and then went on to Durban, where she met Les. I get the feeling they're a strong partnership, ever supportive of each other.
Apart from selling at farmers' markets, Queen Victoria summer night markets, Luna markets and so on, you can also find Bretzel.biz at the annual Good Food and Wine Show (May 30 to June 1 2014 - stall number H12) and the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival (6 to 9 June 2014). They will also be at the Gisborne Olde Time Market (held on the 1st Sunday of every month) on June 1st, the same weekend as the Good Food and Wine Show, such is their passion and dedication to their customers and their business.
They also supply bretzels to delicatessens, schools and bars. They were approached by these businesses based on the great taste of their bretzels. The only advertising Bretzel.biz has ever had, has been in the shape of the printed gingham paper bags they wrap their bretzels in. Word of mouth and the quality of their product speaks for itself. There are a couple of media write ups pasted on their door and Annette tells me they were recently interviewed by an SBS reporter and their story has spread right back to Germany in 'Alles für die frau', (All for the women) a weekly magazine.
Annette would not mind getting more bars, pubs and schools on board. Bretzels are a familiar sight in bars in Germany; something to eat between drinks to keep from getting too drunk perhaps. As a school canteen item, in today's climate of promoting healthy eating, it fits in well. Bretzels are 97% fat free and have no sugar in them.
They also have an industrial freezer that freezes the bretzels in 30 minutes and still preserves the molecules. Annette has tested this theory and states that when a freshly thawed and fresh bretzel is put in front of you to eat, you cannot pick which is the frozen one. This is very handy for industries that want to order in large quantities, as Bretzel.biz can bake and freeze it for you and deliver it frozen, so there is no wastage at all.
Straight out of the oven to your lips if you happen to be there on baking days (see Facebook page for dates)
Like' their Facebook page and be in the know about where you can find their plain or salted caramel savoury bretzels, or their sweet bretzels that come cinnamon vanilla coated, or chocolate filled and sprinkled with fairy or chocolate sprinkles or nuts (almond, cashew or peanuts). If your desire is to feel extravagant in taste, you can have your bretzel chocolate drenched.
Lots of expansion possibilities under the firm guidance of Annette and Les
Down the track, perhaps in three years or so, Annette sees retirement looming. If only she were 20 years younger she laments. Bretzel.biz owns the building they are in, and the business is filled with expansion possibilities. Annette tells me if anyone comes up with a 'really really good offer', she'd be just as happy to retire sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, go ahead, make your day. Have a bretzel!