The Inventory: Gerhard Jenne

‘Though I am only a baker, I can make a difference by giving people pleasure,’ says Konditor & Cook’s owner

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Born in Freiburg in Germany, Gerhard Jenne, 53, has created cakes for celebrities from Tina Turner to The Rolling Stones.

His London bakery chain, Konditor & Cook, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

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What was your earliest ambition?

To do anything to get me away from my parents’ farm! I thought the hospitality industry would be a good way of travelling the world.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school in Germany. I wasn’t quite ambitious enough for university and I was hopeless at maths. I ended up training in my brother-in-law’s bakery. I realised I liked baking – especially the artistic side.

Who was or still is your mentor?

When I came to England I worked for [the late restaurateur and grocer] Justin de Blank and his business partner Robert Troop. They were a brilliant inspiration.

How physically fit are you?

I’ve got a lot of energy. I train twice a week – I’ve got to counteract 30 years of standing in a kitchen.

I love eating cake so I balance it with healthy savoury food.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

You need a bit of both. You also have to take risks and keep your eyes open to opportunities.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Not really, but in school we had aptitude tests. To much sniggering, I was told I’d be the perfect secretary.

How politically committed are you?

I’m slightly politically disenfranchised – I can’t vote in Britain as I’m a German national and I can’t vote in Germany either – I’m not registered there.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

That is in your DNA if you’re German.

Do you have more than one home?

Yes. I’ve got a place in Deal, in Kent. I live seven doors away from the [Waterloo] shop and I sometimes need to escape.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Most wanted: Astier de Villatte china

More leisure time! And if somebody gave me a barrowload of Astier de Villatte china, I wouldn’t mind.

In what place are you happiest?

Walking from Deal to Dover along the coast. And I can lose myself in the kitchen. I’m really happy when we create something that people can’t believe.

What ambitions do you still have?

I’m writing a baking book. And, as a German, you always want to build your own house.

What drives you on?

Though I am only a baker, I can make a difference by giving people pleasure.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The shop. And I’ve been married to my civil partner, Paul, for five years. Everything has fallen into place.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Anything disappointing drives me to find a solution. When you’re against the wall the most, you can also be at your most creative.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“Gosh” – or some appropriate German expletive – “I didn’t realise you had it in you.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I’d probably be a tour guide. I’m quite good at telling people where to go when they’re lost.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes. The German in me is quite rational about something like that.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Only in as much as our atoms carry on somehow.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

On a good day, 10. On a morning where three people have phoned in sick and someone has complained our portions are too small, five. Average: nine.


Gerhard Jenne’s next book will be published by Random House in spring 2014

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