By Hilary McNevin
Baker Bleu: can you imagine a Melbourne food-and-dining landscape without those breads, bagels and rolls? Neither can we, but it’s been only four years since the bakery opened in Elsternwick in 2016. In 2019, they moved to a larger premises in Caulfield North and are the favoured choice for many of our city’s best restaurants as well as a much-loved product in speciality retail stores. They’ve certainly made an impact.
Owners Mike and Mia Russell’s dedication to environmental and sustainable business practices is at the core of who they are and as Mount Zero is also committed to operating with those practices in mind, we are thrilled to feature them as this month’s Mount Zero Hero.
It was even before they opened Baker Bleu that they discovered Mount Zero Olives.
“When Mia and I when we first moved here [to Melbourne from Sydney] we bought Mount Zero products, before we even opened the bakery,” says Mike. “We love the product-integrity of Mount Zero,” says Mike. “The salts, the oils, the olives, they’re all very good.”
With Mike and Mia’s awareness of Mount Zero founded, they had us on the ingredients list when they opened the bakery.
As Baker Bleu took off, they started making focaccia on weekends. “We went with Mount Zero Manzanilla and Mammoth olives, studded through the dough, they add such a great texture to the focaccia.”
Mike also finds that our Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil “enriches” their ciabatta bread.
And, the Fougasse, a specialty bread they offer once a week is also dotted with our Mammoth and Manzanilla olives.
The recipe Mike has shared with us as Mount Zero Hero is of a product that was developed during the lengthy Melbourne lockdowns.
“When the first lockdown started, we set up a popup with Marion Wine Bar in Fitzroy, that has since become a permanent business, Morning Market on Gertrude Street. During the popup, people were having a challenging time and there were limited lunch options available,” says Mike.
They decided to design pizzas for lunch. Very good pizzas, of course, and Mike has shared their recipe (and an image below) for the popular Sweet Potato pizza with us. Instantly comforting and familiar, but with a depth of flavour and quality that’s distinct to Baker Bleu, it’s topped with garlic cream, a mix of cheeses, Mount Zero Manzanilla olives and seasoned with our Pink Lake salt, finished with a touch of Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil.
Lockdown saw Baker Bleu adapt and grow. “We were seen as an essential business,” says Mike, “and while that saw less wholesale business as restaurants and cafes had to close, it did mean we had a responsibility to produce as much as we could for businesses that wanted to sell our breads.”
They didn’t have a website or an online ordering option before lockdown but that all changed quickly, selling their bread online and setting up home deliveries. They plan to keep all that going as restrictions ease.
Mike admits to putting a Mount Zero Mammoth olive into a Martini on more than one occasion and says they often have Mount Zero tapenade in the fridge. That is, when there is time off, “we don’t cook much at home,” he laughs.
It’s been a tough year for everyone yet, Mike and Mia Russell - and Baker Bleu - have risen to the challenge (yes, we did just say that).