Baker Behind The Bakes: From Noma To Raeburn Park
In January 2020, Mohamed Al-Matin returned to Singapore after a two-year stint as pastry sous chef at Noma, one of the best restaurants in the world.
His plans to open his own pastry shop and café, however, were scuppered by the start of the pandemic, so Matin began working out of his friends’ kitchens at hotspots like Park Bench Deli and Bearded Bella where he would sell limited pastry boxes.
These drops, featuring gems such as his signature kouign-amann and smoked cruffins, sold out almost instantly, and Matin became a local pastry sensation.
It wasn’t long before Matin found a commercial space to call his own, tucked away in the bowels of Raeburn Park.
Since then, Le Matin (“matin” is also the French word for “morning”) has become a popular part of Singapore’s pastry landscape, doling out irresistible viennoiseries such as wagyu and bone-marrow sausage rolls, pistachio escargots and black truffle cruffins.
We talk to the 33-year-old about how his business has evolved and some exciting new developments in the works.
How would you describe the pastries that you make?
Basically, they are things I like to eat. I’ve gained so much weight because I eat my own pastries all the time! When I do something, I try to make it unique, and this is what Andre (Chiang, the Taiwanese chef whom he worked for at Restaurant Andre) taught me: When you want to do something, make sure it’s different. Why do something similar to someone else?
How do you get around the humidity in Singapore, which can make it difficult to make good pastry?
It all boils down to air-con and the kitchen. I’ve installed a lot of air-cons in the kitchen to make sure that everything is cold. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve converted to making pastries during the night shift, when it’s cooler. There are fewer people in the kitchen, and not so much baking going onm so we can maintain optimal temperatures. Sometimes, it’s so cold, we have to wear jackets.
Where do you find inspiration for your pastries?
My inspirations are just… around. I don’t go out to eat much these days, but when I do eat at a restaurant, I try to get inspiration from there. But I guess it’s the same as everyone else. Like, I get it from Instagram or from walking around the supermarket, hardware store or kitchen equipment store.
For example, with the cakes that we made for Christmas and Valentine’s Day… I’m not sure where I got that inspiration from… I think from moulds or something, but they are like entremets (layered French desserts), but instead of being covered in mousse, they are more architectural, so you can see each layer clearly.
Why do your pastries cost a premium?
Although my location and setting at Raeburn Park is not upmarket, what you are paying for is quality and workmanship. I wouldn’t say we are the best or we have a Michelin star, but I am charging for labour costs, basically. Every (bakery) has their own SOPs and mine are probably the same as everyone else’s, but there’s always that additional love that goes into it. I make sure everyone is paid and that everyone works at the same level that I do.
Also, with our pastries, we go the extra mile to make them better. For example, with our pain au chocolat, we go to the next level to make it more chocolatey. I put extra batons of French Valrhona chocolate and a chocolate melt on top. It looks like a regular pain au chocolat, but it’s five times more chocolatey than a regular one.
What are your favourite pastry shops in Singapore?
I used to go to Mother Dough quite a bit. Because Keong Saik Bakery is nearby, I go there too. When I feel like queuing, I go to Petit Pain.
What are you excited about these days?
I’m really excited about my new space at 77 Robinson Road, which is scheduled to open by 1 April. We will start light renovations to it next week. It’s quite a huge space… 1,800 square feet; it used to house Mellower Coffee. There’s no kitchen there so our Raeburn Park store will close and the space will serve as our central kitchen.
I’m also doing a pop-up at Porcelain Spa in Paragon. It’s a very small pop-up, with simple pastries and about 12 to 15 seats, to create some traction in the Orchard Road area.
If you had all the resources in the world, what is your dream space?
I would love to have a three-storey corner shophouse. The first storey would be Le Matin, the second storey would be my new concept dessert bar, and the top floor would be a production facility. It would be called Le Matin House or something like that, where people can explore the different concepts by day and night.