On Sept. 11 BAC welcomed local bakers and baking industry professionals to a Town Hall bakers gathering at Georgian College. Photo: Bakers Journal
It was the third meeting held this year in the BAC’s quest to connect with all Canadian bakers, following successful gatherings in Victoria and Winnipeg.
Executive director Martin Barnett described BAC’s focus on small, independent bakeries: “A mandate that came out of our strategic plan was to turn the BAC institutional policy upside down. Instead of developing these policies for the very large members, (something we are very good at), with the idea that the results would trickle down and benefit the rest of the Canadian baking industry, we would seek out and listen to the new entrepreneurs, the small and medium-sized enterprises that have emerged over the last few years full of new and creative products, innovative ideas on management, training, promotion, community engagement and staff retention as well as work-life balance.”
Bryan Hunt, dean of hospitality, tourism and recreation at Georgian College, emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship. Georgian College aims to expand its baking and pastry arts program from one to two years, which would require them to consider expanding their facilities.
Kate Tomic, president of BAC’s Ontario Chapter, announced two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students in Georgian’s baking program.
A lively and frank panel of baking entrepreneurs described their businesses, challenges they face and plans for the future.
Heather Goodman, owner of Goodman’s Fine Foods in Newmarket, Ont., shared challenges with staffing, supply chain and work-life balance, namely, getting enough sleep. Goodman’s developed from a partnership with Metropolis Mercantile in 2020. The shop provides locally sourced gourmet food, specialty food products and housewares. She also hosts cooking and baking classes at her shop. “Work-life balance: what is that?” she said, getting a laugh of recognition from other entrepreneurs.
Kymm St-Amour, owner of Khaos Artisan Kitchen in Port Franks – three hours away on Lake Huron – attended with wife, chef and partner Jill. St-Amour emphasized that Khaos is located in an area that draws tourists every summer. The strong demand created by customers in the mood to splurge has helped her bake at a reasonable pace and set hours that allow for a work-life balance, including recently take on a teaching role at Lambton College.
There is no regular menu at Khaos, St-Amour said. Available items change daily based on what ingredients are in season and include sourdough breads, decadent cakes, French pastries, old classics and new creations. The Niagara College-trained baker is now also teaching advanced baking and cake design part time at Lambton College in Sarnia.
Lise Garden co-owns and operates Homestead Artisan Bakery in Barrie with Cait Patrick. The business specializes in long-fermented sourdough breads and baked goods, crafted in small batches using locally milled flours. They started at the Barrie farmer’s market in 2014. Opened a small downtown Barrie retail location with an offsite production facility. In July 2018 they opened a 3300-square-foot bakery with kitchen.
Garden talked about doing multiple monthly supply runs to get the best prices and offered other bakers newer to the baking business hope for the future. “It will get better,” she said.
Attendees broke into groups where they discussed challenges, successes, priorities in the near future and their wish list for local events.
Valerie O’Halloran and Marg MacDonald, economic and business advisors from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) attended and shared with attendees that they are there to help. O’Halloran explained that OMAFRA runs domestic programming to help bakeries export their products. Members of the department attend Bakery Showcase and other trade shows. They work with major retailers and hold business-to-business meetings. Each year they host a two-day seminar every year in Niagara region for those trying to get into exporting. And they administer funding programs such as Grow Ontario. O’Halloran and MacDonald can help bakery owners navigate and give feedback before you submit an application to OMAFRA. Finally, they can help you with market planning, modelling and connecting you to the right people. O’Halloran encouraged bakers to subscribe to OMAFRA’s food bulletin to learn about funding announcements.
Attendees enjoyed raspberry white chocolate scones courtesy COBS Bread Barrie, rum cake pops courtesy Kelly’s Kakes in Mississauga and butter tarts from Sweet Oven of Barrie.