Life was a bit of a whirlwind for 28-year-old Lionel Hor before he opened this sourdough bakery in June on the second floor of a hipster hawker centre in Simpang Bedok. He cut his teeth as a baker at Maison Kayser in Singapore in 2012, went on to work in a bakery in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2014, then moved to New York City half a year later to take a sous chef job at Maison Kayser’s Bryant Park branch — all while coping with a flour allergy.
In the Big Apple, "the head baker quit to pursue his engineering studies. I got lucky — they pushed me up to the head baker position", he says.
New York’s frenetic pace, however, was not his cup of tea. A year later, Lionel packed up to volunteer at a bakery called Sandholt in Reykjavik, Iceland. He loved the work and the place so much, he returned the next summer. Soon after, he received a job offer from a German flour company for a regional technical advisor position. "They flew me to Germany for training and on that first day, I got fired [because of how severely my allergy flared up]," he says with a laugh.
It turns out being in a flour factory was just too much for his allergy, which he usually circumvents by wearing a mask in the kitchen. "That was a turning point for me," Lionel recalls. "I had to decide if I wanted to stay in this industry or move on. So I decided to take a shot at setting up my own place. At the end of the day, it’s what I enjoy doing and it’s what I’m good at. So I took my chances."
Last May, Lionel set up Mr Kneady’s with a $60,000 loan from his father. On any given day, he bakes a selection of White, Whole Wheat, Cranberry Turmeric, Walnut, Pumpkin Seed, and Danish-style Rugbrod loaves. The 250-gram loaves are the perfect size — small enough to finish in a day so they don’t sit around in our unforgiving humidity. The stall also offers some excellent sourdough pizzas, which are available after 6pm.
For now, Lionel runs the stall single-handedly and gets help from good friends during the weekends. He hopes to open a bakery bar in three to five years. "A place where people can enjoy bread-based dishes with a good selection of beer," he says, before running off to shape his next batch of loaves.
Above, our take on what to order at Mr Kneady’s.
#02-24 The Bedok Marketplace, 348 Bedok Rd. Tel: 9815-5025. Open Tue-Sun 11am-9.30pm. Closed Mon. Last orders 9.20pm. www.facebook.com/mr.kneadys