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Originally published June 26, 2012 at 3:03 PM | Page modified June 27, 2012 at 8:03 AM

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Neil Robertson rolls out perfection at Seattle's Crumble & Flake

Open only since May, Neil Robertson's tiny Crumble & Flake Patisserie on Capitol Hill is already drawing lines out the door with its cream puffs, tapenade rolls and croissants.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Since opening in early May, Seattle pastry chef Neil Robertson's Crumble & Flake Patisserie has amassed a loyal following of enthusiasts who willingly wait in long lines to savor French pastries with playful twists.

"I envisioned a small, quiet neighborhood bakery," said Robertson. "I didn't expect customers to come from all over the city, loading up [on pastries]."

Popular offerings include caipirinha macarons, tinged with lime; the soft and moist "cheweo" (an elevated Oreo sandwich); made-to-order cream puffs in flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and mango; kouign amann; fig and olive tapenade rolls; and smoked-cheddar and paprika croissants.

The new bakery regularly sells out by 11 a.m. on weekdays and by 10 a.m. on weekends, with 30 to 40 people lining up around the block, yearning for a taste.

Given Roberts' former stints as pastry chef at Canlis and Mistral Kithen, it shouldn't' be a surprise that his highly anticipated solo venture is proving successful. At the very least it has alleviated one of Robertson's earlier concerns: "When we first opened, I thought to myself, 'What am I going to do with all the leftovers?' " said Robertson candidly.

Located at a tiny corner on Capitol Hill, the patisserie is simple and unassuming; there are no chairs, tables or quaint decorations — just a glass case of baked goods.

When asked about his favorite items, Robertson said, "I love everything (at the bakery); I don't make anything that I don't love."

Baking is a personal matter for him — the self-described perfectionist spends 13 hours a day playing with flavors and tweaking recipes.

"The focus is on flavor and texture; if one thing is missing, then the recipe is lacking," explained the chef, who worked as a graphic designer for more than 20 years before entering the restaurant world.

Although he works with an assistant baker to meet local demand, Robertson said the bakery is almost at capacity, in both refrigerator space and time.

"I have no leisure time," he said with a laugh. "I get up at 3:30 a.m."

Despite drastic life changes since the patisserie's inception, Robertson is content pursuing his initial vision: Working in an intimate kitchen, interacting with customers and perfecting his croissant recipes — he says the process "is like magic every time."

"I enjoy making things with my hands that people really enjoy," said Robertson. "Pastries make people happy."

Crumble & Flake Patisserie, 1500 E. Olive Way, Seattle; (206-329-1804 or www.crumbleandflake.com). 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, or until sold out.

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