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Big Story Behind These Thin Crisps: Toronto’s ACE Bakery January 14, 2010

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Resembling miniature slices of sourdough bread, these crisps are baked by Toronto’s ACE Bakery on Hafis Street.  This bakery prides itself in using only organic and natural ingredients for their breads – all 36 of them.

And here I thought Montreal enjoyed the monopoly of the best breads in all of Canada!  Not that I’m narrow-minded or parochial, but Montreal has always been known for its corner boulangeries and cafés.  So once in awhile I need to remind myself that good Canadian bread can be found in places other than Montreal.

I had never heard of ACE Bakery before and that’s probably because I don’t subscribe to the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star.  I’m sure these dailies have covered them, considering that the owners, Martin Connell and Lynda Haynes, are active in promoting social causes not only in their community but also in underprivileged countries.

How did I get to know about ACE even without a subscription to Toronto’s major newspapers?  Loblaws!

I was going to Loblaws to pick up a bag of organic rye flour by La Milanaise of Quebec.  As I passed the fried chicken and fries section, a fragile-looking metal stand with slim and fat white boxes caught my eye. I looked more closely.  I mulled over the word "Artisan"  printed on the boxes.  The simple and unpretentious packaging of the product finally convinced me that I ought to try their potato chives crisps.  Also on display were their grains which I was also tempted to buy, but I remembered that I still had cereals and grains in my cupboard.  "Another time," I muttered.

I was not only eager to taste the crisps but I was also intrigued by the company and made a note to google them when I got home.

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The ACE web site was an eye-opener.  The company has an impressive list of signature breads and the owners have interesting profiles.  Martin Connell and Lynda Haynes have received awards and honours from the Canadian government for their humanitarian work and contributions to Toronto society.  Ms Haynes has written two books.  In 2003, ACE was named Toronto’s best bakery by the Toronto Star’s Eaters’ Choice Awards and the best supplier to hotels and restaurants (Pinnacle Awards).

And get this – Philip Shaw, formerly of LaBrea Bakery of Los Angeles – became ACE’s CEO in 2006 (LaBrea I knew of, having watched some of Nancy Silverton’s videos on sourdough starters).

In many ways, the story of ACE Bakery has inspired me.  I was moved by the owners’ efforts in helping fund food and nutrition programs for low-income earners and how they donate their pre-tax profits to an organization called Calmeadow.  It was founded by Martin Connell to offer credit and financing to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries.

These days when we think of how entrepreneurial talent is transformed into community service, ACE would probably stand out as a shining example.  I’ve read so many wonderful success stories but the example of Connell and Haynes reminds me that bread possesses a sort of goodness and wholesomeness that transcend taste.

If you could use a bit of inspiration, please read the ACE story.  Go to www.acebakery.com

No, I don’t know the owners, have never met them and I have not been asked to endorse their bakery in any way.  Why would they need endorsements?  They’re made!  And if you want to tease your palate in addition to the inspiration, head straight for their list of breads.

Just thinking – I’d give anything to get a culinary scholarship and work in their kitchen if the time was right. 

Torontonians, you ought to be proud of your award-winning bakery.  Canada, the US and the Bahamas are enjoying what comes out of its wood ovens already.

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