In the kitchen of Oscar’s Bakery Café, chef and owner Oscar is multitasking. Expertly dipping twists of simit dough into a bowl full of sesame seeds, he has one eye on two pans of lasagna baking in the oven and the large batch of Turkish breads proving on the bench.
“I am always learning new things in the kitchen,” he says as he works. It is fitting, then, that his bakery operates in a place of constant learning and is a go-to fuelling station for staff and students of UC.
Oscar has been a keen student of food since he enrolled in a tourism and hospitality school as a 15-year-old, choosing to train in the kitchen. His time there exposed him to a wide range of cooking styles and techniques.
“I was learning French and other international methods of cooking. I still learn a lot. I never finish!”
Years later, having completed his bachelor in tourism and hotel management, gaining chef experience in several hotels across Belgium and Germany, and starting his own family restaurant business in Turkey, Oscar moved to Canberra. He was chef for a time in a Turkish restaurant, then did a stint at Silo before launching his own bakery. And what a bakery it is!
When a commercial kitchen is as sparkling clean and tidy as its front-of-house you can tell that an incredibly organised person is running the establishment. In a back corner of Oscar’s spotless kitchen, the walk-in freezer is right out of a Marie Kondo’s fantasy. Everything has its place, a real feat as there is a lot going on at Oscar’s bakery.
Each cake and pastry you see on display, each pie or meal posted on the large menus overhead is made in-house from scratch. Not just the bakery items. Oscar bakes his own bread for toasties and his own puff pastry for the pastries. He and his team bake all the cakes and desserts and chop their own mince for pies and sausage rolls.
“We sell a lot of pies, spinach rolls, sausage rolls. Our butter chicken and mushroom pie is very good. We have added kebabs to the menu. The kebabs are slow-cooked. I cook the beef for six hours in the oven and chicken for two hours. I asked the university students what they wanted to eat. They told me ‘burgers’! I serve my burgers in house-made Turkish bread rolls. They are very popular when the students and staff are here on campus.”
Like many small business owners, Oscar has had to adapt to the recent COVID-19 curveball. Harnessing his skills and creativity, Oscar’s newest endeavour showcases his international cooking experience. His new Bake at Home menu features 32 items.
As you walk into the bakery, a tall freezer displays a variety of Oscar’s Bake at Home meals and snacks, and three varieties of lasagne all made with house-made pasta. Take home a spinach and ricotta cannelloni, a beef lasagne, or a lentil and mushroom lasagne cooked with Middle Eastern herbs and spices. Or you might want to try a jar of bright red shakshuka sauce so you can poach your own impressive Middle Eastern eggs at home. Try the different gozlemes, sample the falafel or the vegan potato borek.
Or you could pick from a selection of the pastries, croissants-plain, chocolate and snails, scrumptious cruffins and simit rounds.
“Everything has instructions on the website for heating at home,” Oscar assures his customers. “You don’t have to guess. All the information is there.”
Back at home, we bake the lentil and mushroom lasagne, following Oscar’s online instructions. It puffs up and turns golden brown on top exactly like in the video on his website. The lentils are still firm, absorbing the Middle Eastern herbs and spices, layered alongside mushrooms, capsicum, tomatoes, bechamel sauce and cheeses.
The beef lasagne is well-seasoned with a generous amount of meat in the sauce. It is delicious and even better the next day as leftovers.
Oscar’s Bakery Café is located at 7 Telita St in Bruce on the UC campus.
They are open 7 days a week, from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays and 8:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends.
To order your own Bake at Home feast, go to Oscar’s beautiful new website and click on the Shop link. Each item comes with heating instructions. Follow Oscar’s Bakery Café on Facebook and Instagram to see enticing images of their baking adventures.