I visited Montreal in mid-February, at the height of a big event taking place on the other side of the country.
I visited Montreal in mid-February, at the height of a big event taking place on the other side of the country. Maybe you’ve heard of it – incredible highs, devastating lows, wacky weather, 14 gold medals and a parade of giant inflatable moose and beavers were among its countless memorable moments.
My Montreal holiday coincided with the city’s High Lights Festival, an event that couldn’t hold a candle to the spectacle of the Winter Olympics going on in Vancouver, but in its own small way seemed to be infused with the spirit of the Games. Young and old waited patiently in a long line to take a thrilling sled ride down an ice track running nearly the entire length of Place Jacques-Cartier, while near the riverfront a rock band played despite the sub-zero temperatures. When festival-goers weren’t sledding, they were ice skating, taking rides on a giant ferris wheel, indulging in maple taffy, or roasting meat over roaring fires set up near the track.
I saw a few people huddled under heat lamps, trying to stay warm, but for the most part everyone seemed to be making the most of the city’s harsh winter weather. I had a blast just standing in line for the ice slide, watching kids goofing around and conversing with a couple of young French Canadian men behind me in the queue. They asked me to snap a cellphone photo of them, and I obliged; in return, they gave me a mighty shove at the top of the track when it was my turn to sled – and I rocketed down that sheet of ice with what felt like Olympian speed (in my mind, anyway – Alberta’s skeleton hero Jon Montgomery has nothing to worry about).
Two weeks before this trip to La Belle Province I became a permanent resident of Canada, and before that I’d spent about two months researching past issues of Bakers Journal in preparation for our 70th anniversary issue (March 2010). Together, these occurrences have given me a newfound appreciation of not only this country and its history, but also the industry that provides us with a stable, prosperous livelihood: baking.
The people in this industry constantly amaze me with their passion to succeed. And when they find success, they don’t let it go to their heads; instead, they share what they’ve learned and help others understand how and why their business succeeded. They do this regardless of whether they have anything to gain from the process of sharing.
I’ve heard some grumbling that bakers these days aren’t as likely to share such business insights with one another, that in the past they would often swap recipes, help each other develop new products, and join together in marketing initiatives. Today’s business environment is simply too competitive, the complaint goes, with little to no room for error.
That’s fair criticism, I suppose, as we’ve all been on pins and needles while the economy slowly sputters back to life. But this month’s cover story, about bakers banding together to promote not only their products, but many other Canadian companies’ as well, is nothing short of a testament to the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all ships, that we are bound together by more than just geography and history. Whether it’s through ad hoc co-operation or formal industry associations such as the BAC, we’re lucky to have a strong sense of camaraderie infusing our business dealings.
In short, the individual succeeds when our industry succeeds. That is an idea worth its weight in gold – and worth celebrating.
As Canadian bakers and allied tradespeople gear up for their own version of the Olympics – Bakery Showcase, May 16-18 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont. – we here at Bakers Journal wish you the best of success. May the spirit of the Vancouver Games inspire you to new heights and renewed appreciation of our industry – and our great country.
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