Walk in pastry chef and René's Bakery owner Albert Trevino's shoes for a few days, and chances are you'll never want to look at another ball of dough again. Rolling out between nine hundred and a thousand croissants per week, you would think he might have bought a machine to do the job for him by now, such is the popularity of these finicky flaky pastries.
But that's not the case. "I never get tired of rolling croissants," explains Trevino, for whom baking at this level is more than simply a method of production, it's a pleasure in its own right. "Sometimes I find I've made a croissant that's just perfect," he continues, "and I relish that moment."
Now in his twelfth year as a pastry chef, and ninth at his current Broad Ripple location, Trevino, whose middle name happens to be René, is largely self-taught and is by nature singularly motivated. For him, a 4 a.m. start is late, and his day rarely ends until well into the afternoon. "It takes a certain personality to do this," he admits, "often I find myself working alone in the small hours."
Formerly the pastry chef for the much-missed Tavola Di Tosa, where he worked in this very same building, Trevino acquired the bakery and opened his own business just months after Tosa's closing.
Seldom the star of the show, the pastry chef works on the fringes of the kitchen and is often considered expendable in these financially straitened times. Yet it's the patissier's art which so frequently elevates a meal to a whole new level of enjoyment — and provides a lasting memory.
As fewer restaurants these days prepare their own desserts, and as many resort to the products of high-volume commercial kitchens, you'll find Chef Trevino's artisan creations on sale not only on René's own countertop and at the Broad Ripple Farmers' Market, but also at finer establishments including Capital Grille, Black Market and the SoHo Café.
Although strongly inspired by the art of French and Italian bakers, Trevino is sensitive to local tastes. Custom cakes are popular, as are fruit tarts and, of course, chocolate. Cookies, hardly a mainstay of European patisserie, take front and center stage here, coming in an array of flavors, including oatmeal and apricot, dried cranberry and peanut butter. The chef has even been known to produce the occasional cupcake, although when the subject is mentioned, one gets the impression that he would probably rather leave these to more specialized practitioners.
Trevino projects a quiet and unassuming respect for his raw materials and for his chosen profession. Ingredients, he explains, can be fickle, especially with changes of the season, but one must learn to adapt to their vagaries and to improvise when things don't work quite as expected. The measured, contemplative approach seems to suit this modest chef. He admits to still having a lot to learn about baking, and about business, but has greater ambitions for the future, adding wistfully, "I see perhaps a slightly larger René's."