Reinier’s great-grandfather helped rebuild a war-torn country. He uses the same skills to feed Australia

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun29,2024
Walking through the doors of a Dutch bakery in the Melbourne suburb of Camberwell is like stepping back in time.
That’s because owner Reinier Krol is drawing on more than 100 years of baking skills, handed down through generations.
“I started baking at a very young age,” says Krol, 51. “My father taught me how to bake, and his father taught him.

“Later, my father would drag me into work during the school holidays and at weekends when I was 15, 16 years old.”

A man in a chef's uniform standing at a counter rolling bread dough.

Reinier Krol making fruit buns — which are among the bestsellers at the bakery. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

Krol’s father Jan moved to Australia from the Netherlands with his family in 1982 and was one of the first to bake sourdough bread in Melbourne.

“He used a starter or a leaven for the sourdough, which we still use today,” says Krol.

“Sourdough is essentially a naturally fermented bread, made from leaven, flour and water that’s allowed to ferment over a certain period of time.

A tray of fruit bans being lowered onto a shelf.

Sourdough fruit buns fresh from the oven. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

“It develops a natural sour taste and the leaven also helps the bread to rise.”

Sourdough fruit buns are among their bestsellers and the traditional style appeals to the Dutch diaspora.

“When we opened in April we advertised a little in the Dutch community. The following day we had people drive four, five hours just to come and get some of the products.

My father taught me how to bake, and his father taught him.

Reinier Krol

“It was absolutely unbelievable that people had driven from all corners of the state essentially to discover a place they’d heard about.”

The Krol family’s baking tradition stretches back more than a century, to the end of World War One when the first outlet opened in the Netherlands.

“In 1918, my great-grandfather Abram opened a bakery in a little Dutch town called Spaarndam, west of Amsterdam,” says Krol.

“He worked in that little shop with his wife and they were essentially helping to rebuild the country after the war.

Various photographs pinned to a board.

A photo board displays the Krol family history. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

“My grandfather Reinier took over the family business after World War Two and it was history repeating itself.

“The Netherlands was once again devastated with many homeless people and food was extremely difficult to find.”

The Netherlands suffered the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe.

Danish pastries in a shopfront window.

The window display at the Krol Family Bakery. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

By 1945, more than 200,000 Dutch men, women and children had died of war-related causes. More than half of those were Holocaust victims.

“The little family bakery had survived the war and [grandfather] Reinier Krol was making bread and no doubt helping the community in any way that he could,” says Krol.

That community spirit remains active today. Each day the Krol Family Bakery in Camberwall gives unsold bread to a local care agency. And with living costs soaring, Krol is helping where he can.

“The artisan bread market has become so expensive, with many bakeries charging $10 to $12 for a loaf of sourdough bread.
“Now, I understand that business costs have gone up along with living expenses, but at the same time, bread should not cost $10, $12 a loaf!
“So we try to make a good quality product, and sell it at an affordable price.”

It’s one reason customers keep coming back.

Sourdough fruit loaves sitting on a wooden bench.

Sourdough fruit loaves are made on site. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

“I like the vintage feel of the bakery and also the taste,” says customer Quiana Dong. “The bread tastes homemade and not [like] something you buy from the big supermarket.”

“We love the Dutch fruit loaf, which is really dense and full of fruit and we haven’t been able to get it for many years,” says customer Sue Steegstra.
Krol’s artist wife Rachel Grove runs a gallery next door and is happy to help out behind the counter.
“It’s really busy in the front, and I have not had much experience doing customer service, so it’s all a bit new for me,” says Grove.

“But I have fallen in love with it and getting to know everybody. It’s rewarding to serve people each day and find out what they like.”

A man in a white jacket stands next to a woman in a blue dress.

Reinier Krol (right) with his wife Rachel Grove. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

After decades at the helm of a film production company, Krol returned to his roots in April this year following the death of his father, Jan.

“When he died I did a lot of reflection about the importance of family and decided to return to baking” he says.

“My father was very much ‘old school’, believing if you work hard and you achieve something in life, you get rewarded for it. And that has always stuck with me.”

His mum Sonja agrees: “I’m very proud of Reinier. It’s sad that my husband is not here to see this, but I think he would also be very proud.”
While Krol says the customers are like an extended family, he dreams of one day starting a family of his own and training his children in the finer points of bread making.

“I would be thrilled to have a fifth generation follow me and teach them, as my father taught me and his father taught him.

A woman in a floral shirt standing outside a shop with a man in a white jacket.

Reinier (right) with his mum Sonja Krol at the family business. Source: SBS / Sandra Fulloon

“In the same way that you keep the sourdough starter going over generations, you can keep traditions and a business going over generations.

“And to continue this business would be a very special thing.”

This story was produced in collaboration with SBS Dutch.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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