We're definitely fangirling for Maxine Scheckter, the 22-year-old wunderkind behind Wellington's newest patisserie, Sugar Flour.
After missing out on her Easter creation, an extremely realistic "egg" (complete with shell) of feijoas in an elderflower jelly, with a creme fraiche and yogurt cream, and a lemon yolk, we knew we had to head over to Kilbirnie and meet her.
Maxine has a pretty rad backstory: after bargaining with her parents to leave school at 17, she studied pastry and cooking at Weltec before heading to Paris to study at Ferrandi, one of Europe's best culinary schools. Paris led to London, and stints at restaurants Sketch (you would have seen their interiors on Instagram) and Heston Blumenthal's restaurant The Fat Duck. After a year of days lasting between 17 and 19 hours, Maxine decided to head home.
Sugar Flour was a labour of love for Maxine, who knew exactly what she wanted in her shop. She also has an incredibly efficient work ethic. She found the spot with her dad in mid-January, tiled the counter herself, painted the walls in understated grey and white, installed a stone countertop, and lined up her patisserie creations under gilded glass after lots of recipe testing. She opened in mid-February. Out the back is her library, filled with bookcases stacked with her jealousy-inducing collection of cookbooks.
Maxine's modus operandi with Sugar Flour is accessibility. "With everything, especially the prices of the pastries, I want everything to be affordable."
Maxine's favourite thing to make is puff pastry — which is good, because they go through a lot of the stuff. Her favourite thing to eat? Kougin Amann ($6), an unassuming-looking croissant pastry with sugar laminated between its buttery pastry layers. It's finished with a sprinkle of fleur de sel, a type of salt that has a higher moisture content, so instantly melts in your mouth as you eat it. It's excellent with a Karamu coffee, Sugar Flour's supplier at the café. Maxine's menu changes regularly, a revolving selection of around ten pastries with different features and flavour profiles. Truly, you're sure to find something (or many things) that you'll love. In terms of price points, pastries range from $4.50 up to around $8. Sugar Flour also has Libertine teas, Karamu bottomless filter, cold brew and siphon, and hot chocolate from Valrhona alongside classic Six Barrel Sodas and juices.
In the future, Sugar Flour will also hold classes, dinners and events. For now, though, inner city dwellers will have to make the trip to Kilbirnie for their pastry fix. "I'd want to be everywhere at once if I had two shops," says Maxine. "I just like everything to be perfect!"