More than 40 members of a Scottish baking association investigate the Vancouver-area baking industry.
I had the pleasure of being part of a journey for a very unique group of bakers I met from Scotland, England and Ireland. In 2004 I received an e-mail from Iain Campbell, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in Crieff, Scotland. He is also a committee member of the Scottish Association of Master Bakers under 40 (SAMB 40). Iain, having a family connection to Vancouver through his wife Ailsa, had expressed an interest in coming to the Wild West and he asked me if I would be able to recommend some bakeries to visit in and around Vancouver.
During a pilot trip taken by Iain Campbell and Andrew Chisholm (also from SAMB 40) to Vancouver in February 2005, we visited several bakeries, and in-store bakeries, along with a local flour mill. Iain and Andrew were so impressed with the versatility of the bakery and pastry products they saw from so many different cultures that they proposed to the SAMB 40 committee members to take an educational journey to Vancouver. Iain told me that the SAMB 40 Group has always liked to do things differently. They have taken educational tours throughout Europe in the past.
The SAMB 40 committee members approved the trip and Iain asked me if I would be able to help him organize a tour to local bakeries in and around Vancouver. Their objective was to see production and to speak directly to bakery/pastry owners and personnel.
On Saturday October 22, the SAMB 40 members gathered in a bar at Glasgow Airport for some Dutch courage and bacon rolls and flew directly into Vancouver.
The following Sunday morning, the sight of 42 people meandering through the streets of (DOWNTOWN!) Vancouver was a sight to behold. The first stop was Urban Fare, a high-end supermarket with the emphasis very much on “high” as in prices. On display was a Poilâne bread plaque for $99.95. Add on the wretched tax at the point of sale and it was yours for almost $107. After scooting across the water on the aqua bus, the next stop was Granville Island Public Market. This is a like a permanent farmers’ market with an indoor location to protect it from the elements. In addition to numerous bakeries like La Baguette, Terra Bread and Stuart’s, someone noticed the most expensive scotch pies on the planet at $2.95 a piece.
We arrived at Saginaw Bakery at 5 a.m. Monday morning, just as the staff was producing doughnuts and muffins for the 7/11 convenience stores. Chris Blue, the young enthusiastic owner and baker, gave us a tour through his facility and everyone was able to enjoy a fresh donut on the premise. Afterwards, the group’s first real Canadian breakfast experience was at Tim Hortons; I still remember the faces of the staff as they served 32 Scottish bakers at six in the morning. From there we went to Bread N Buns Factory where Doo Yun Park and his son Jae welcomed us with coffee and fresh baked goods then showed us their very unique and successful operation. They produce frozen dough at the commissary, which is blast frozen then shipped to their retail stores and baked fresh throughout the day in front of their customers on a deck or rack oven. Everyone was speechless after they left the retail store in Coquitlam. I recommend every bakery owner take a look at this concept. At Pohl’s Bakery, Ulrich Pohl showed us how to produce a quality marzipan Christmas stollen on a Rheon machine, as well as the unique concept of producing fully-fermented frozen dough. He also offered us samples of different products baked in a computer-programmed oven which thaws the dough pieces and then switches over to the baking process. The products were well received and well liked. The bakery tour for the day finished off at T&T Supermarket on 1st Ave. Some of the Scottish bakers said they felt as though they were visiting a store in an Asian country, not Canada – they saw items they had never seen before.
On Tuesday, our day started at Gourmet Baker’s Laural plant. The group was very much impressed with the highly productive line for butter croissants, Scrumpets and apple turnovers. At the Ingleton plant, we saw the production of chocolate cake slabs. At Pane E Formmagio, Paul Harwood (who came to Canada four years ago from England), explained his process for making artisan breads, complete with a handout detailing the method.
On Wednesday, Michael Sui of Swiss Bakery greeted the group with coffee and fresh baked croissants then moved on to demonstrate his method for making artisan bread, French baguettes and his new and very successful specialty, malted wheat bread. From there it was on to Cobs Bread, a successful concept from Australia (which is actually known as Bakers Delight) with over 650 locations there and in New Zealand. The company has been in Canada for almost two years and now has 16 locations on the west coast, with two more to open up soon. Cobs produces unique bread and buns, as well as specialty sweet goods typical to Australia. Afterwards, the group explored Whole Foods Market prior to lunch at Grouse Mountain.
Thursday started with Mark Tsemak at Red Square Bakery. Mark surprised the Scots with his unorthodox philosophy for keeping his employees happy and stress-free; he has a complete gym above the bakery and he and his team play ping-pong in another recreational room after a hard day’s work. The bakery specializes in the production of healthier baked goods, such as flax bars and cookies, along with bread and pizza crust made with fresh-ground flax seeds. Next on to Save On Foods and then the Vancouver Community College. While there, the group participated in a seminar organized by the B.C. Chapter of the Baking Association of Canada.
On Friday, the last day of the educational tour, the group set sail from Coal Harbour for a tour of Burrard Inlet on the good ship “Magic Moment.” The Canadian Wheat Board organized the harbour tour, and the members of SAMB 40 were able to look at the five grain silos lining the waterfront. This is the gateway for the distribution of grain to South America, China, Japan and Indonesia and is an impressive sight. We caught a glimpse of a tanker containing 35,000 tons of grain and Andrew Chisholm from Scotland’s Hutchison’s flour-mill noted that it was carrying a quarter of what his company would use in a year.
Last but not least, the Scottish group planned a Celtic dinner at The Vancouver Golf Club. The perfect end to a hugely successful trip, all the men dressed in their finest kilts and the ladies dressed to the nines. It was quite an impressive evening.
On this note, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who was involved in making the journey for the SAMB 40 members an experience of a lifetime. It was an honour to have been a part of it all.
Ralf Tschenscher is sales manager, Western Canada for Lesaffre Yeast Corporation.
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