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At Rinkoff’s Bakery

January 14, 2015
by the gentle author

Ray Rinkoff braids his Challah

“Hold on a few minutes, I’ve got something in the oven!”exclaimed Ray Rinkoff, when Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I arrived at his family-run bakery in Jubilee St, Whitechapel, founded by Hyman Rinkoff in 1911. “I always wanted to be a Baker,” Ray continued, a moment later. “My grandfather was a Master Baker who came over from the Ukraine and opened up in Old Montague St, but – although my father couldn’t boil an egg – the talent was passed on to me.”

In this corner of London, Rinkoff’s Bakery is a major cultural landmark yet they wear their legendary status lightly. In 1906, Master Baker Hyman arrived fleeing the pogroms in Kiev and opened his shop five years later in Spitalfields opposite Black Lion Yard, lined with jewellers and known then as the Hatton Garden of the East End. All the family, uncles, cousins and aunts lived up above the bakery and worked in the business which flourished there until 1971 – when a compulsory purchase order presaged the demolition of the building, along with the rest of Old Montague St.

Since he was ten years old, Ray came in to work in the bakery during his school holidays and discovered a natural affinity with baking. “By the time I was twelve, my grandparents would pick me up in their car and bring me in and I got paid £2 a day,” Ray recalled fondly, “I used to help my grandfather Hyman with the baking, serve in the shop and make dough.” At fifteen years old in 1968, Ray wanted to go to Switzerland to train as a patissier but he settled for working at the Floris Bakery in Soho. “But then my dad said, ‘We’ve got problems at the bakery,’ so I came in to the family business and stayed,” Ray admitted to me, “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“I used to get up at two in the morning and be at work by three, to light the old ovens and warm them for two hours before we could start baking,” he confessed with a shrug, “and then I’d get home at nine at night, for ten years, seven days a week.” These days Ray takes it easy on himself by working a mere twelve hour day, five days a week.

In recent decades Rinkoff’s has operated from Jubilee St with a small shop and a large busy bakery behind, where the next generation have joined the family business. In 1982, Lloyd Rinkoff was only thirteen when his father told him he could either take Hebrew Classes or work at the bakery on Sundays, so he chose the latter and stayed. More recently, in 2007, Jennifer Rinkoff joined and has expanded the bakery range to include Linzer biscuits and muffins.

“When you’ve worked hard all your life, you’re very proud of what you’ve got,” Ray assured me in haste, and then he had to run again because he had something in the oven.

Hyman Rinkoff, the founder

Max Rinkoff

The former shop in Jubilee St

The original shop in Old Montague St

Max in Old Montague St

Sylvie & Max Rinkoff

Max at the new bakery in Jubilee St

Rinkoff family group in Jubilee St with Ray (far right)

Lloyd, Jennifer & Ray Rinkoff

Aziz

Timothy, Head Pastry Chef - “I’ve been here thirty years”

Jamal

Sajez

Richard

Jennifer & Ray Rinkoff

New photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

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Night at the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. January 14, 2015

    Good to see that Rinkoffs is still going strong! I remember them from my childhood, in their old shop on Old Montague Street. Valerie

  2. SBW permalink
    January 14, 2015

    Thank you, I love this bakery. Great photographs, thanks for sharing. s

  3. Barbara permalink
    January 14, 2015

    I am so delighted to see this post and it has answered a question that my sister and I have been pondering over recently . We grew up just around the corner from old Montague St , in Casson St . The bakery was on the corner of Old Montague St and Casson St and I remember the delicious cheese cake that we had from time to time . However , we could not remember if the bakery was Kossof’s or Rinkoff’s ….and now we know ! It is also great that there is a photograph as despite trawling local archives , I could not find a picture of the bakery which was on the opposite side of Old Montague St to most other shops . Ihave seen many photographs taken by Tony Hall which document the other shops but had up until now , never seen one of the bakery . It is wonderful that the bakery is still thriving , thank you G.A , another fragment of history preserved .

  4. January 14, 2015

    Nothing to say against Rinkoff’s Bakery — they are surely the finest bakery in London. But as you perhaps know: the best bread in the world comes undoubted from Germany! I am not sure if you could find a twice baked cottage loaf in London as shown on this website: http://www.baeckerei-pluecker.de/produkte/brot/roggen/

    I wished you could try this bread, or by way of example at least the onion bread… mmmmmmh!!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

    *** JE SUIS CHARLIE ***

  5. Sally Williams permalink
    January 14, 2015

    Nice to see this piece about Rinkoff’s but very surprised that you don’t mention the shop in Vallance Road, which has the mural of old Hyman Rinkoff on the gable wall!

  6. Neville Turner permalink
    January 14, 2015

    Long live Ray and long live Rinkoff’s

  7. ben lauffer permalink
    January 14, 2015

    best bakery and product in London by a mile!

  8. Oliver permalink
    January 14, 2015

    Thank you for a very insightful article. Visiting this bakery for fresh bagels and a tasty crodough (the best in London) is my Sunday morning ritual.

  9. Michelle permalink
    January 14, 2015

    I grew up across the road from Rinkoff’s bakery in Jubilee Street & going there with my Grandma to buy Platzel’s is one of my earliest memories. I no longer live in the East End but I visit the bakery from time to time to buy ‘real beigals’ & lemon drizzle crodough’s for my daughter.

  10. sandra permalink
    January 15, 2015

    Always visit this bakery when I am in the east end and bring friends with me as well, who can’t resist the lovely bread and cakes

  11. Robert permalink
    January 15, 2015

    Fantastic stories. Great pics.

  12. January 31, 2015

    Although I don’t work for Rinkoffs, I feel I do. I think I did work there for 5 minutes once. I think I swept something up from the floor. That was before stuffing about 20 freshly baked amazzz!!!!!ngly tasty doughnuts in my mouth one Sunday morning. And usually on a Friday night/ Saturday morning I’d jam my face into some sensational cake or something. I know all this sounds terribly surreal, like what is this mofo talking about??? Oh yeah I did have a go at designing a logo for them [ Ray ] once. Yeah, so anyway. It’s 12 midnight in Los Angeles right now… and I just made myself some tea. Green. From China. Yeah. Ok. So. Anyway. If you do read this Ray. Just a hello and love to Esther and your incredible family and to say I just read this article and I felt I had lived it all with you somehow. God knows how?! Guess my imagination has always been ok. So yeah. Well. Again. Much. Love. And. Heartfelt memories as we journey into the long and distant future, please God!!! S’ok I’m not on drugs or anything like that. Just working away trying to dream shit up. Well. Yeah. Ok. t x

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