Interview with Gontran Cherrier, Tiong Bahru Bakery
When did your entrepreneurial story begin?
I had always dreamt of opening bakeries around the world, and before I opened my first shop in Montmartre, Paris, in 2010, I was hosting a French cooking programme, published several cookbooks, and worked in Russia and Romania as a consultant baker, training apprentices and setting up production centers there. I also recently filmed a TV show called “La Meilleure Boulangerie de France”, which searched for the best bakery in France, and it is very well-received.
What reasons brought you to set up your company in Singapore?
Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures and the people are open to discovering new sensations, flavours and experiences when it comes to food. So naturally, I was interested in bringing my knowledge and expertise here. I was introduced to Cynthia Chua of Spa Esprit Group by one of my business partners, and we clicked instantly. She has developed many different food and lifestyle brands and it’s interesting how she approaches these new concepts.
What are the specificities of Gontran Cherrier Bakeries?
To me, it is not only about bread but creating a real, authentic experience. My baking style is all about traditional French techniques infused with international flavours.
What are the most difficult challenges to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges is training of staff. Although there are schools in Singapore that train in French techniques, they are still very new. Especially due to the manpower shortage, it’s challenging to find the right staff with adequate experience who can hit the ground running. We have to put in the extra hours to train them, as they still require a lot of guidance.
Do you consider Singapore as a favourable place for the implementation of your project?
Yes, Singapore is very multicultural and people are well-travelled and open-minded. The dining scene here is very exciting, and there are always new food concepts coming up.
Could you share with us the main differences between France, Tokyo and Singapore when you run a bakery?
We tend to sell more bread in Paris, but people usually do takeaways, and so my Parisian bakeries tend to be smaller. In Tokyo and Singapore, my bakeries are seen more like a restaurant as people like to sit down and take their time, and coffee and savoury items are very popular.
What are your next steps?
I am working on opening new shops in Melbourne, South Africa and Korea under the Gontran Cherrier brand sometime within this year.
Any tips for success for new entrepreneurs?
You should be constantly curious and always have a goal in mind. Always trust your instincts.
Tiong Bahru Bakery
The views and opinions expressed in these columns do not necessarily reflect those of the FCCS members and management.