City Arts Magazine recently got up early enough to keep up with Crumble & Flake’sNeil Robertson — still going strong since his little bakery’s spring debut. It’s a fun read and an excellent portrait of a man who seems to have created his own perfect space on the Hill.
Not a Badass, a Baker
The whims, obsessions, appetites and passions of the most honest man in the kitchen.
Thursday morning, 3 a.m.: The alarm clock sounds and the Baker rises. He’s showered and dressed by 3:40, out the door of his Capitol Hill apartment by 10 minutes to 4. He walks the few blocks to his workplace at the corner of Olive and Howell briskly but without hurry. The Baker walks this way almost everywhere. He doesn’t own a car, doesn’t want to.
Absent the daytime warmth of Indian summer, the dark night air is sharp and cold, the city streets mostly vacant. Not counting the woman tossing newspapers out of the passenger-side window of her Toyota sedan, the reasons for a normal person to be functioning at this hour are dubious—usually desolation or desperation. The Baker is at ease in this temporal netherworld. Not comfortable in it—nothing outside a bed is comfortable at this hour—but present in its remove. He knows exactly what he’s doing here.
Shortly after 4 a.m., the Baker, Neil Robertson, 47 years old, slim and fastidious in sleek, clear-plastic-framed glasses, close-cropped hair and trim salt-and-pepper beard, opens the door to Crumble & Flake. He steps inside his bakery—a spartan space with grey concrete floors, sparkling white walls, and big, front-facing windows—and turns on the lights. He is alone in his world, exactly how he likes to be. As not-night yields to actual morning, Robertson puts into motion the alchemical forces of chemistry and combustion that will produce today’s goods. more…