Kiwi baker keeps the heat on
Considering his brand is "Global Baker", you don't really expect Dean Brettschneider to get lost. But that's exactly what he did this quiet Saturday morning in Beverly Hills, and it's exactly how he came to meet TV talk show host Jay Leno.
In Los Angeles to film part of his new series, A Kiwi Baker in California, Brettschneider is filling in time before our breakfast meeting at that most iconic of LA breakfast meeting locations, the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
His walk takes him down the long palm-tree-lined boulevards that surround the hotel and which after a while, all start to look the same.
Being Los Angeles, there are no other people out walking so Brettschneider hails a passing car to ask for directions. The driver is Leno - "I work in TV" - and he delivers our Global Baker - "so do I" - back to the hotel.
As a Beverly Hills story goes, it's a winner. Which is fitting for Brettschneider, the former Rangiora boy who now has fingers in pies all over the globe. Living in Denmark, with bakeries in Singapore and Asia, consultancy work in Britain and Europe, judging on the hit TV show New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker and licensing agreements in Tokyo, Manila, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, his is a true success story, born out of talent, sheer determination and just being a very nice guy.
Sitting here at Beverly Hills' most iconic hotel, the day before filming starts on his latest TV series (its predecessor, A Global Baker in France, was shown last year), he's come a long way since his high school woodwork teacher called in his mother after Dean chose to do home economics instead.
As a teenager, he was a top rugby and soccer player and even then, came to realise the value of marketing. "I liked seeing my name in print. Being recognised is like people saying ‘well done'. And I understood how a profile could lead to more success."
Work experience at the Rangiora Bakery lead to him winning NZ Apprentice of the Year award in 1988 and soon after he went to Europe, working in top hotels, artisan bakeries and supermarket in-house bakeries.
Back in New Zealand, he worked for Ernest Adams, and later moved to Dunedin, where he owned the award-winning craft bakery Windsor Cakes, in Dunedin. The first of his cookbooks was published in 2000 - "I thought it might be my last one but I've now got 10 to my name" - and he continued to regularly travel the world, working, teaching, researching, planning.
Along the way, he admits, he's met a lot of the right people. "I met Rick Stein in 2000, Raymond Blanc. I met Prince Charles last year. I've had lots of help from a lot of people so I'm always trying to give something back." But he stresses he's not a corporate networker and doesn't disagree with his "nice guy" image. "I associate with like-minded people. I'm deemed to be a celebrity baker but that's of no relevance to me."
Now, he says, with his global span, "I'm a business baker. I travel nearly every week and I spend my time running businesses and looking for opportunities. I want to offer the very best of everything based on what I see around the world. I steal with my eyes - and my tastebuds, naturally."
As a plate of pastries is put before us, they are eyed, evaluated then slowly eaten. "US croissants are more cakey than those in Europe; theirs are more flakey," he notes. And, after a recent trip through France, he declares the days of the cupcake and macaroon are over. "It's all about eclairs now," he says, pulling out his phone to show photos of beautifully presented pastries in a Paris bakery to make his point.
So what next for the Global Baker? Anything is possible. Only 44, he admits he still has an enormous appetite for what he does. "I'm having a ball. It's not even hard work."
A Kiwi Baker in California begins tonight, 6.30pm, Food TV.
Sunday Star Times