If you ask someone what their love language is, you normally expect an answer like ‘quality time’ or ‘acts of service’. But pastry chef and owner of Holy Sugar, Audrey Allard says hers is ‘baking for others’.
Growing up in northern New South Wales, she was ‘obsessed’ with lemon delicious, golden syrup dumplings and Crêpes Suzette – a French dessert featuring crêpes with a zesty sauce of caramelised sugar and butter that feels sort of sophisticated, and yet exactly on brand for a primary school-aged sweet tooth.
‘I’ve always loved sweets, and for once in my life I felt like I was actually good at something,’ Audrey says. My mum would always say, “if you want it, make it yourself”, and it honestly became a weekly ritual.’
She started her Patisserie apprenticeship a few weeks after high school. By her third year, she decided to pack up her life in the car with plans of moving to ‘the city’ to build her culinary skills. ‘When I reached Sydney, Phil Woods [former executive chef at Rockpool] had accepted my job application to work at Pt Leo Estate, so I kept driving until I reached the Mornington Peninsula,’ she adds. Six years since she moved to Melbourne, she’s experienced bakeries, bistros, fine dining and even a stint at the world-famous Lune Croissanterie.
It meant that when lockdown hit in 2020, she had the skill to follow through on a ‘super irrational and impulsive idea’ to start her own business at 23. And last year, Audrey opened the doors to her own IRL dessert heaven in Northcote after tackling the renovation.
‘I painted walls, ripped down plaster, ripped out bars, removed glass windows and installed stained-glass ones,’ she explains. ‘I spent almost 70 hours cleaning and clearing out the kitchen alone and installed the lemon mosaic that I thought would take a few days, but ended up taking almost two months!’
The space is delightful. Cream brick walls, cottagecore vintage plates and fresh flowers are the perfect backdrop to her nostalgic selection of lemon meringue pies, brûlée tarts and cinnamon crullers that have made Holy Sugar one of Melbourne’s most beloved sweet spots – reminiscent of cult-status bakery Beatrix Bakes. In fact, Audrey has even turned to owner Natalie Paull for advice through the highs and lows of being a mostly one-woman, business.
Audrey says it’s been ‘a big journey’. But you wouldn’t wake up at 3am to make it all happen (and do it all again tomorrow) if your heart wasn’t in it. There’s no disputing Audrey loves what she does, and her customers do too.
‘The most rewarding part would be overhearing someone rave about a product,’ she adds. ‘It never gets old.’
I wake up between 3am and 4am. The first thing I do is have a coffee! I look forward to it even when I’m going to bed, but I definitely I function the best in the morning. I’m fresh, I have a clear head and the energy to push on.
I start work between around 3:30am-4:30am to get started in the kitchen: getting the oil up to temp to start frying crullers, baking everything off that needs to cool before we portion. I always try to make sure we have enough to keep the shelves full to avoid selling out.
All of the products need to be portioned right before opening the shop at 9am. It’s always a mad rush, it’s hard to catch up among serving customers if you start to fall behind.
I definitely need to take more breaks, but I try to take half an hour to have something to eat and a mental reset. Half the time I go across to Tinker the cafe and get a snack, because the last thing I want to do is stop cooking, to cook for myself.
We’re open until 2pm, so there’s always the (not so fun) close down jobs like bins, sweep, mop scrub-down. I usually try to run my errands in the afternoon if I have any: purchasing flowers, stocking up on anything I’ve forgotten to order. Responding to emails, messages are also an afternoon job.
Afternoons are the hardest for me! My energy level is at a 0 and there’s always so much to do!
I finish work between 4pm-6pm on a regular day. There’s an odd 7pm-10pm finish here and there. Dinner might be Uber Eats, or maybe be the lunch I didn’t get to finish or dumplings from down the road. It’s whatever is the easiest and most convenient, but I always try treat myself if I’ve had a big day.
My bedroom is honestly my sacred place and I love getting into my comfy robe to relax. The bigger the day the more time I need in bed doing nothing, and watching‘The Office’ always helps me unwind!
At the end of the week I’ll try to pamper myself a little and watch a movie or something. I’m usually too exhausted to go out and do anything!
I usually get to sleep between 9:30pm-12am! I often get between 4 to 6 hours sleep while I’m working, but up to 20 hours on a Sunday night! I honestly don’t know how I function off so little, but I feel like I’m more productive with less sleep – it’s weird!
Visit Holy Sugar at 236 High Street, Northcote and follow Audrey on Instagram here.