He's a Star in the Baking

© Edinburgh Evening News, 9 November 2006

By Sandra Dick

GATEAUX-ING PLACES: Scotland's only 'Konditormeister', Falko Burkert has a opened a shop in Bruntsfield.

GATEAUX-ING PLACES: Scotland's only 'Konditormeister', Falko Burkert has a opened a shop in Bruntsfield.<br /> Picture: Ian Georgeson
Picture: Ian Georgeson

THERE is a fine dusting of white flour covering the pavement outside Falko Burkert's busy bakery shop, the remnants of a particularly large delivery that arrived by lorry just moments earlier.

Falko has already heaved the sacks down the steep stairs leading to the cellar of the cosy shop and swept away most of the floury remains. Still, the distinctive aroma of freshly baked bread seeping from the ovens at the rear of the Bruntsfield Place premises and that thin floury layer outside lets passers-by know this is no ordinary bakers' shop.

Each has been lovingly created by Scotland's only Konditormeister - the hard-earned qualification awarded to Falko after eight years of intensive study and practice in the art of producing any food containing sugar, a title bestowed upon the Continent's best producers of cakes, pastries, chocolates and tarts.

Falko strides from the rear of the shop, dressed in his chef's whites and towering at over 6ft tall, instantly defying any perception that cake-making is for little old ladies in flowery aprons. Indeed, surviving in a business that requires him to start work at 7am and finish at around 10pm requires nothing if not stamina.

It's a six days a week operation, but in the six months since Falko expanded from a stall at the city's farmer's market to the Bruntsfield shop, business has boomed.

"I was working at the Hub as a pastry chef but I wanted to do more than that. So I started baking at home using my little oven and set up a stall at the farmer's market," explains Falko. "I wasn't sure if Scottish people would like what I was doing. They did."

Computer programmer Robert Linton tasted Falko's baking and agreed it needed a bigger platform. Soon the pair had joined forces to launch the business.

Today, a stream of customers pours through the doors - even before the shop is officially open for trade. Falko greets each customer personally: there's a man seeking out a gluten-free lemon tart followed by a couple of slightly dishevelled student lads treating themselves to a slab of luscious cake and a 20-something woman swithering over pumpernickel.

He admits there is a certain pride in seeing Scottish palates weaned on soggy white bread and over-processed cakes adapting to the likes of his wholegrain loaf with spelt flakes and honey or his Bauernbrot made with rye flour imported from Germany.

But it's not just the taste that is important: the Konditormeister's art is steeped in German traditions, and Falko has a baker's rule book he must adhere to in order to create his authentic products.

"Being a Konditormeister is not simply about being able to bake, it's much more complicated," he explains. "We learn chemistry and physics, we learn how to teach apprentices and how to do the accounts as well as which ingredients to use. We have to follow German baking rules. Everything is set down in law that you have to have certain amounts of this, the right amount of that."

"For example, a Black Forest Gateau," he continues, "must have ten per cent kirsch in the whipped cream; strudel must be made with layers of bent dough so fine you could almost read a newspaper through them, not a puff pastry like you have in this country."

"This is what annoys me about supermarkets - they call products these names but they are not right. It's important that people get a taste for the real thing."

Which is why Falko will only use the most natural ingredients in his cakes and breads - unsalted butter never margarine, fresh seasonal fruits never frozen, high quality chocolate and fresh cream.

He is surrounded by calorific confectionery but Falko's waistline shows no sign of overindulgence.

"It's absolutely right that you can and should eat a slice of cake every single day," he insists with a smile. "As long as it's good cake!"

• Falko Konditormeister, 7 Bruntsfield Place. Tel: 0131-656 0763, www.falko.co.uk. The shop is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am until 6pm and Saturday from 9am-5pm. Falko also runs a stall at the Edinburgh Farmers' Market.

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