At Rinkoff’s Bakery
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
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
Timothy, Head Pastry Chef - “I’ve been here thirty years”
Jennifer & Ray Rinkoff
New photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie
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