Really Good Bread From the Wrong Side of the Tracks: Downie Street Bake House, in Stratford
The sale of artisanal premium breads — high quality, hand-crafted and free of artificial additives and preservatives —continues to be on the rise. Alan Mailloux, a trained chef from Stratford Culinary School with nearly 30 years’ experience baking bread, has the skilled hands of a practiced baker who knows how to perfect the ideal crust and crumb. Kneading, long rises, multiple rises and sourdough starters produce complex artisanal, specialty breads of great diversity. The latest incarnation of Alan and Barb Mailloux’s baking career, Downie Street Bake House, has allowed them the opportunity to experiment with long and cold fermentation times for their breads (giving better flavour and keeping qualities) and expanding the selection. On offer is a variety of bread baking that includes: Whole Wheat Rye, 12 Grain Sourdough, Plain (not boring) White, French Country, Stratford Sourdough, Walnut Sourdough, Mini Me Miche, Potato Currant, Rye Sourdough, Cinnamon Walnut Raisin, Sour Chocolate Cherry Sourdough and Olive & Oregano.
They opened their first B&B in Windsor, in Mailloux’s grandparent’s old house on the main street. They did some baking for a local coffee shop in the evenings after Alan finished work at his ‘day job’.
They relocated to Stratford in 1990, so that Mailloux could enrol in the Stratford Chefs School. “Cooking was going to be my thing, but something kept pulling me back to bread making. We had an opportunity to take over the Orbit Bakery in Stratford when it came available in 1993, but thought I needed to practice my cooking instead (so I trained the eventual owner how to make bread) and moved on.”
“After cooking around for a couple of years, we ended up back in Stratford in 1996 to open a B&B. Baking bread on Friday nights to sell at the Stratford Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings was going to be a temporary thing to do until the B&B became a success. Instead, the bread making became a success, something we could do year round and that people enjoyed.”
“Our first bakery was located in Sebringville and it suffered from four problems – location, location, location and our impatience. No one wanted to drive five minutes out of Stratford to buy a loaf of bread and we just couldn’t wait for the number of new and good farmers’ markets to sprout up and provide us with an alternative platform for selling our bread from such an obscure location. So we sold up and moved back to Stratford and hunted around for two years to find the ‘right’ next location.”
In 2011, “the right location” became available and the Maillouxes helped the landlord fix it up. Alan was still working with Max Hollbrook at The Parlour at the time. They began to research the area farmers‘ markets that have become an integral part of their success.
“The Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market had an opening for a bakery. We applied and were accepted. Our business there has grown by over 50% since we started there two years ago. The Sunday Slow Food Market was also now located in Market Square in downtown Stratford, just behind City Hall. Lindsay Reid, of Lindsay’s Bakery, was kind enough to offer us some of his space at his stall to help us get established. The Garlic Festival and Savour Stratford came soon after we opened and offered us the opportunity to let a whole lot of people know that we were back baking again.”
The Maillouxes have built a stellar reputation as one of the best bakeries in the region. It is no wonder that they share super-hero personas. Alan is Baker Boy and Barb is Shop Girl.
Downie Street Bake House
388a Downie Street, Stratford
The Bake shop is open:
THURSDAYS: 10:00 AM-4:00 PM
FRIDAYS: 9:00 AM-8:00 PM
SATURDAYS: 8:00 AM-2:00 PM
THURSDAYS: 3:00 PM-7:00 PM (June to October) Uptown Market Square near King and Erb Streets, Waterloo.
SATURDAYS: 8:00 AM-3:00 PM (year ‘round) Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market (900 King Street, London)
SUNDAYS: 10:00 AM-2:00 PM (May to October) Stratford Slow Food Market (downtown, behind City Hall)
Heavenly Hand-Crafted Baked Goods From Lindsay Reid’s Sebringville Kitchen
Lindsay Reid’s motto is to “share really good baking” that is made from scratch in small batches, using high quality ingredients. This requires patience and precision – something he appears to have in quantity in the bake kitchen in the cellar of his Sebringville home. Reid incorporates only pure natural ingredients, unbleached organic flour, local eggs, honey and butter in his baking. On offer are hand-made croissants, squares, tarts, muffins and seasonal specialties. Reid has asked me not to call his baking iconic – he and my former London Free Press editor, Linda Barnard, have recently declared a moratorium on “the ridiculously overused pet adjective of lazy writers.” So let’s call his delicious baking emblematic.
“A traumatizing experience to say the least. At the time I vowed never to work in the food biz again.”
High school jobs included night and weekend baking at Buns Master Bakery and working in the kitchen at the local A&W drive-in. Reid attended the Stratford Chefs School after a two-year stint studying journalism at university. Reid says, “I felt the desire to follow a career path that involved creativity and working with my hands. A strong appreciation for food and entertaining was nurtured at home, so a career in food seemed a natural choice.”
“My imagination and creativity didn’t seem to be adequately fired, being in my early twenties where everything in life seems to be either black or white. I was much less experienced than the majority of the apprentices when I began the school. I remember Jim Morris (co-founder of Stratford Chefs School) telling me to not move around from job to job, best to stay in one place for a while and learn absolutely everything you can from the situation. ”
Reid apprenticed with Chris Woolf at Woolfy’s (first incarnation) in Stratford. “Thanks to divorce and my ‘All About Eve’ phase, (a reference to the overly ambitious ingénue that insinuated herself in to the life of an established stage star and circle of theater friends in a ruthless climb to the top, in the film All About Eve) I ended up running the kitchen for Woolf’s ex, who became sole proprietor.”
In 1992, Reid’s sister Mari-Jane (M.J.), and her family returned to Stratford and they decided to go into business together. “We purchased Tastes on Wellington Street and turned it into Lindsay’s Food Shop, offering deli, bakery, and catering in 1997 and 1998. I also ran Lindsay’s Restaurant where Pazzo Taverna is now located.”
Since leaving chefs school, Reid has been employed as a breakfast cook at the Westin Harbour Castle, server at Canoe, and catering and event manager at Senses Catering in Toronto. There was a stage at Grano with Ellen Greaves when she was briefly the chef at Winston’s. “In Montreal, I was a sandwich maker at Café Titanic in Old Montreal until I took over the kitchen at Olive et Gourmando.”
Reid enjoys the interaction with his regulars and clients. “Relationships that are built through weekly visits give meaning and feedback to a baker; it helps me with my product consistency and refinement.” It is essential to Reid to produce consistently tasty baking that he would want to eat himself. “My boss Dyan Solomon of Olive et Gourmando in Montreal and I would test items for inclusion in our selection of fresh baked goods. We would go over and over a particular item, i.e. brownies, until we got the exact result we wanted. And when it went on the menu we would not vary the item. The customer expects and should receive the exact same quality of a particular item every time they purchase it. ”
Crocks of mincemeat, made with locally harvested apples, have been marinating since early fall, and fruit mixtures in brandy and rum have been baked into cakes and puddings. Reid finely grinds whole almonds to make the almond paste for the dark fruitcake. Again this year Reid has prepared a selection of his and his family`s personal favourites: Christmas fruit cakes, puddings, mincemeat pies and tarts, panettone and gingerbread cookies.
“Small business depends on many variables lining up. Sometimes your concept gets adapted to fit the variables. My initial concept was to supply other businesses. I soon realized that I could better control the quality of my product by selling directly and that I could sell directly for a much better price than wholesale. So, I began doing farmers’ markets.”
Reid has decided to forgo the indoor Sunday Market in Stratford this winter. He will rejoin the Slow Food Market when it returns to Market Square in May 2014. In the meantime, you will find Lindsay`s Bakery at the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in London on Saturdays from 7 to 3 pm.
Great Bread at Soho’s Alternative Ethical Bakery and Organic Café: Organic Works Bakery
Peter Cuddy is a maverick, innovator and passionate entrepreneur with deep-seated ethical convictions. Cuddy has built the reputation of Organic Works Bakery on integrity in several areas relating to ecology and health. Whether engaging customers in conversation in the Organic Bread Works café, doing demos at trade shows as a means of promoting his brand, undertaking the leg work required for having the bakery certified organic and allergen-free, or learning from his team of bakers on Saturday mornings, Cuddy remains focused on the business at hand. He strives to “keep Organic Works compliant with every possible standard,” which is both time-consuming and expensive, but ultimately gratifying.
Baking was never Cuddy’s vocation and he still does not self-identify as a baker despite his vast knowledge on the subject and his hands-on approach to the business. He leaves the baking operations up to head baker Lori Juric, who leads a team of four full-time commercial bakers and two retail bakers. Juric was trained by master baker/pâtissier Roland Hofner, of the Tourism and Hospitality program at FanshaweCollege. Cuddy is quick to point out Hofner’s success as an educator and says, “I would gladly hire any graduate of Hofner’s baking program.” The busy organic café and retail operation is headed up by Chef Kat Charlebois.
One of the most time consuming and challenging aspects of the business is the necessity to deal with the volume of paperwork required for allergen-free certification. The bakery has organic certification from Pro-Cert Canada Inc., which is the overseer group accredited by Canadian Food Inspection. The bakery has recently been audited by the Canadian Celiac Association’s Gluten-Free Program (GFCP) to verify that the bakery meets all requirements allowing it to use the GFCP mark on product packaging and in marketing and advertising materials.
“The bakery started out with very basic breads and five years ago converted to exclusively gluten-free products,” says Cuddy. ‘‘A large part of what we have done right is that we have designed a product that has all the needs and requirements of allergen-free status that tastes good.”
Clients who want organic, lactose-free, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and allergen-free products are often more knowledgeable and demanding than their mainstream bakery purchasing counterparts. They generally also want stringent reassurances about the origins of the ingredients and the products employed in the bakery. Peter is on hand to talk to his customers to educate, to assuage their concerns, and to talk about how the ingredients are sourced and how the products are made.
“Customers want to see ‘a clean ingredient deck,’ meaning keeping ingredients to as bare a minimum as possible.” Organic Bread Works is a nut-free facility and does not retail any wheat products.
Gluten-free products have become increasingly popular because more people are learning that celiac disease can be managed effectively if wheat products are eliminated from their diet. Wheat-free or gluten-free are not just for those with a wheat or gluten intolerance. They are also delicious alternatives catering to a demand for more global, authentically produced artisanal varieties of bread.
The building was originally purchased as a new location for Gielen Design but those plans changed. Cuddy’s wife is Kate Gielen, owner of Gielen Design. She conceptualized the retail area and café. The café has an earthy, natural vibe with a touch of industrial aesthetic. A wall of reclaimed doors separates the public area from the main floor production facilities. The seating options include an eclectic selection of chairs, leather couches and elevated seating by the large windows that face the street. There is additional seating outside on the patio, and the café has wi-fi.
Originally I was going to put the bakery on the main floor, but my wife convinced me otherwise. Putting the bakery underground was more good fortune than scientific research. The bakery is practically hermetically sealed and when combined with seven tons of air forced through the room it makes an excellent environment for leavening breads.‘’
Besides the breads, Organic Works’ gluten-free offerings include banana bread, brown rice buns, raisin cinnamon loaf, scones and cookies.
“I have been blessed with good staff, good fortune and certainly a good partner in life. You can strive to make all the money in the world but this type of work gives me a deep satisfaction and I find it is as much fun as it is work. We continue to walk the talk; we do the certification to make sure that we are safe from any allergens,” explains Cuddy, “Buying and sourcing local is critical and it separates our products from [those of] other people.”
Organic Works Bakery
222 Wellington St, London
Thursday and Friday: 7:30AM-8:00PM