When a croissant takes 18 hours to make from start to finish, you know you are getting the freshest pastry in town. At Hendrickx Belgian Bakery in the Gold Coast, head baker Reneaud Hendrickx and manager Dominique Schewebach strive to bring the best of Belgian food to Chicago.
Dominique and Reneaud met over 25 years ago while working on different career paths. Ten years later, they found themselves on the shores of the Bahamas opening their first Belgian bakery together based on Reneaud’s passion for food and good bread. After some time, that small bakery turned into a full-service Belgian restaurant that lasted 10 years.
After moving back to France from the Bahamas, Reneaud and Dominique realized that living in Europe wasn’t quite for them.
“At the same time, one of our regular customers in the Bahamas from Chicago said we should open something up in the U.S.,” Dominique says. “We visited the city, loved it, did some market research and realized there were very few traditional bakeries in the city. That’s how it all started here.”
After proving themselves to investors and getting their visa, they settled into their customized Gold Coast space with a bright red door and cheerful interior. Behind that red door oozes baked bread made the way the peasants in Europe made it with only four ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt. It oozes croissants with imported Belgian chocolate and traditional white chocolate bread with the famous Belgian pearl sugar on top.
“The quality of the ingredients we use is key,” Dominique says. “We cannot produce quality baked goods without quality ingredients.”
The quality of Hendrickx’s Belgian Bakery’s baked goods also comes from how the goods are baked. The croissants take 18 hours because the dough needs to rest in between folds. The signature product, the Belgian country bread is all made by hand – no sugar is added to speed up the rising. “No two products look the same because we let everything rise naturally,” Dominique explains. “We don’t force the dough by putting it into cabinets.”
Customers love the philosophy of Hendrickx’s baking practices. Customers get an up-close view of how the items are prepared just by walking in the store and can see first-hand just how traditional the baking process is.
“The kitchen is visible on purpose so customers can see and understand how we work,” Dominique says. “It’s exactly like the kind of food you would get if you lived in Belgium.”
It’s that authenticity that makes customers come back and make repeat orders. Some customers, picking up orders for the holidays, have even brought visiting family members to show them the unique bakery. During the long Chicago winters, Dominique sells out constantly of the Belgian country bread – it goes great with the soups and stews that are traditionally prepared this time of year.
Dominique and Reneaud hope that artizone helps to deliver the small-batch food to a much wider audience. They realize that it’s difficult in the city to travel to all the different specialty stores and that artizone solves a huge logistical problem for specialty food-seeking consumers. With artizone, Chicagoans can expect the “taste of real breads without having to travel to Belgium” delivered right to their door.