IT’S ALWAYS PLEASANTLY SURPRISING JUST HOW MUCH CREATIVITY AND CHOICE IS PRESENT IN BAHRAIN’S FOOD MARKET. THIS MONTH, FACT WAS GIVEN AN EXCLUSIVE TOUR AROUND ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S BIGGEST AND MOST RESPECTED BAKERY BRAND’S PRODUCTION UNIT IN TUBLI. FROM THE SWEET SMELL OF CHOCOLATE TO THE TEMPTING AROMAS OF FRESHLY-BAKED BREAD, OUR VISIT TO LE BATEAU WAS DELICIOUSLY INSIGHTFUL…

When we first meet Kevin McIntyre, the General Manager at Le Bateau, we’re greeted by a firm handshake, an enthusiastic smile and someone who has a clear passion for motivating his team to produce the best sweet and savoury treats in Bahrain.
Kevin has been with the famous bakery, café and restaurant brand for almost three years now, building on the strength and quality of Le Bateau; a sister company of Qatar’s Bateel, under Al Mana Gourmet & Food C.O. As a result, Le Bateau has become one of Bahrain’s most-recognised names for a wide variety of Breads, Viennosseries, Savories, Cakes and Pastries. From celebration cakes to personalised delights, cotton-candy-soft breads and baguettes, hand crafted chocolates and special creations for seasonal holidays, Le Bateau is taking dessert and pastry production to a whole new level.

Le Bateau’s home of operation in Tubli is made up of a number of floors with clean, airy space for baking, mixing, rolling, decorating and all the fun behind-the-scenes action and hard work that goes into its much-loved foodie inventions.
After walking around and coming face-to-face with the man power and the machines that help to produce large amounts of daily orders, we’re notably impressed. This place thrives off inspiration and imagination, and these are two things that clearly trickle down from the management, which in this case is General Manger, Kevin. “If I get a brainwave, I go for it,” he says. “When it comes to new ideas, I’ll go down and talk to the staff. I’ll tell them what we’ve got coming up and ask them ‘what can we do?’ And then the guys start inventing and playing around and we get to some new products.

“It also depends on the staff,” Kevin adds. “If they motivate you and you motivate them, then crazy ideas can work. I always say ‘show me what you want to do’ – you have to trust and let them do what they want.” And that is one of his main philosophies to keep Le Bateau ahead in the food game, to “not have too many rules.”
We’re intrigued to learn more. “In the art of pastry and bakery, you shouldn’t have many rules,” Kevin tells us. “You have your recipe standards and you have your flavouring standards, but rules in the world of desserts don’t work, why? Because, sometimes, the best desserts in the world are made by mistake.”

Some of Le Bateau’s most-selling favourites include the stunningly flavourful Mango Cake and the freshly-packed, humble chapatti. The latter is sold in supermarkets and selected cold stores all around Bahrain, and the team at Le Bateau produces around 12,000 chapattis a day, with the dough being mixed in a separate area and the chapattis being cooked by a cool machine – it’s equal man and machine power – and it runs like clockwork. Kevin is a general manager who doesn’t really like being sat in the office – it’s just not his style and approach to growing the Le Bateau business. He explains: “I like to go and see where our products are. I go and check my outlets, I go and meet customers, I do sales and meeting calls, I go down to the kitchens, see what’s being done and give my ideas of what I’d like. When I give crazy ideas – I get the staff to start practicing and come up with new products.”

One such creation, which came as a result of Kevin’s out-of-the-box thinking, is the picture-perfect Rainbow Bagel that people just can’t seem to get enough of. It’s made for specialty restaurants and also sold at Le Bateau’s three Bahrain outlets in Bukuwarah, Enma Mall in Riffa, and Tubli.
“At the end of the day, you’ll never know how something works unless you try it,” Kevin says. “One thing I must admit about the Bahraini market is that the more new things you put out there, the more they’re willing to try.”

Le Bateau currently works with 18 four and five-star hotels as well as supermarkets, restaurants and cafés, alongside exporting to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to meet customer demands. This is something that Kevin hopes to expand on over the next year. “My 2017 goals are to have progression and new ideas,” he says. “I would love to bring Le Bateau to other GCC countries; I’d like to go to Dubai in the UAE, because the one thing that the GCC forgets is that there’s so many good production units here, you don’t need to order what you need from America and Europe,” Kevin continues. “Come to us and get it – we’re here in Bahrain, in the centre of it all – what do you want? I’m the little guy that can produce big – and that’s what I’m looking at for 2017.”

Much like his friendly and talented team, Kevin’s job satisfaction comes from happy customers. If the beautiful Christmas hampers, tasty variety of breads and pastries, and fine selection of mouthwatering chocolate (including mocha, hazelnut, caramel, coconut and more), that we saw – and tasted – is anything to go by, Kevin and the Le Bateau team are headed in the right direction; onwards and upwards.

GO: Visit www.lebateau.me for more information.