Geezers go cronuts: walk, talk, bake

Esther Rinkoff showing her family history

Seated comfortably in their Bow clubhouse this week, the Geezers were led through more than two centuries of East End and Jewish history, guided by Esther Rinkoff, a member of the Whitechapel baking dynasty, married to Ray Rinkoff, the current head of the business. 

From the Rinkoff brothers’ origins in Kherson, Ukraine, via their flight from pogroms at the end of the nineteenth century, Esther brought us to their several arrivals in London and the founding of the bakery by Ray’s grandfather Hyman Rinkoff in 1911. The photo which heads this article shows Esther pointing to Hyman and Faiga (Fanny) Cohen on their wedding day, 8th June 1909. They married at Philpot Street Synagogue, which used to be just south of the Royal London Hospital.

In passing we spent some time at the Jewish Free School and the Great Synagogue in Brick Lane, previously the Huguenot New Church and now the London Congregational Mosque. We arrived at the site of the Rinkoff premises in Old Montague Street opposite the long-gone Black Lion Yard, which was the East End’s Hatton Garden, full of jewellers. It was in Old Montague Street that Ray’s father Max fell in love with and married Sylvie, the daughter of the butcher next door.

In 1971 the Old Montague Street shop was compulsorily purchased and demolished. Rinkoffs is now at 224 Jubilee Street, E1 3BS, with a deli at 79 Vallance Road. It’s striking art deco sign tips its hat to the Old Montague Street frontage. Here we took a step into the East End’s gangster past: one time Vallance Road residents the Kray twins had Rinkoff beigels brought to their prison cells.

Hyman Rinkoff had seven sons. The commercial and personal lives of the generations, their branchings and regroupings, are a microcosm of Jewish life in the East End — and in recent years beyond it. There were moments in our walk through the family history when Esther reached for the word broyges, the Yiddish for dispute or feud. 

Display in Rinkoff's Bakery

Through thick and thin, the bakery continued. In the Covid lockdown, hard work focusing on its retail customers kept Rinkoffs going when the wholesale trade dried up. Esther’s Algerian Muslim colleagues are key to the business, and the fact of multiculturalism at work is a point of pride.

The current generation plays a major part. Jennifer, Ray’s daughter, created the crodough (croissant pastry fried like a doughnut), the Rinkoff take on the cronut. Its notably led the bakery into the world of social media (@rinkoffbakery).

Rinkoff Bakery book

After so much distance covered, we were all pleased that Esther had brought us cakes and copies of the Rinkoff history to further feed our curiosity for the family’s inspiring story.

John Alexander


Find the Rinkoff Bakery at 224 Jubilee Street, London E1. 

For a snack, the deli is at 79 Vallance Road, London E1

Book your place on Esther’s Walk Talk Bake tour of the East End here

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