New on the scene | Ritchie’s Bakery
Lauren Ritchie had big aspirations to open her own restaurant in the Okanagan, but a couple of classes in the kitchen sent her on a new path. Now she’s the new owner of Ritchie’s Bakery and she’s bringing naturally leavened bread to a farmer’s market near you. We caught up with Ritchie to learn more about the baker behind the bread.
How did you get into baking?
I worked in hospitality forever, but always in the front of house – serving, hosting or managing. I moved out to BC five years ago with the plan to open a restaurant in the Okanagan, so I went to the Art Institute [now Le Salle College] and took the Restaurant and Entrepreneurship program. They encouraged us to learn about every aspect of a restaurant, including the kitchen, so I took some basic culinary classes and I loved it. Even when I was serving I was always in the pass watching and seeing what they were doing in the kitchen. I dropped out after a semester and a half and went to Northwest Culinary Academy.
I remember saying that I wasn’t excited about baking bread at all. I was really interested in cake and chocolate. That changed after I learned how to make bread. I have a very ‘sciency’ brain – I have a science degree in biology – and I just like the transformation it makes from a big lump of flour and water to a loaf. All of the nutrition and the chemistry behind it is super interesting.
I do just generally love bread, especially with a lot of butter. You know how people say that when you cook for somebody you don’t eat as much. On farmer’s market days I’ll bake 100 loaves of bread and honestly, if I could, I would eat 100 loaves of bread and butter.
There’s a lot of stigma around bread these days. Why do you think people should eat bread?
For me, I think that there is a lot of confusion out there. I think people think bread is bad, but they aren’t thinking about the kind of wheat. That’s why I use Flourist because they are using organic grains and they know where each grain is coming from and the farmers who grow it.
There’s a lot of genetic modification, pesticides and other things that are done to wheat that can cause huge stomach problems. I think people get confused. It’s not just wheat, it’s everything that’s done to wheat that can be a problem.
How do you want your baking to be perceived?
I want Ritchie’s Bakery to be simple. I don’t want it to be trendy and I want the quality and ingredients to be the focus. I use the Flourist flour and salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co. I really just want to support small businesses because I’m a small business too.
Why is that important to you?
There’s a lot of reasons. I want to support the economy and make where we are living better. For me personally it’s nice to be able to talk to people who own the business. It makes it easier for me to run my business because I can learn from their experience. They are teaching me and giving me advice so I can avoid those pitfalls. Those relationships are important to me and I’ve been so lucky that I’ve had great mentors.
How important is mentorship?
Huge. My second job after pastry school was at Batard on Fraser working under Chris Brown. He lives in Japan now, but I still email him for advice. I work part time That’s why I want to support local small businesses because they all support each other and you really need it, especially when you are starting out.
You’ve been doing your own thing for about a year’ish now. What’s the future look like?
My plan is to do farmer’s markets for two to three years and then maybe have a brick and mortar, but I’ve only been doing this a year and I’m so new.
I’ve worked for or known people who are maybe straight our of pastry school or have worked for someone for six months and gone straight to brick and mortar and they had a really hard time. Right now I’m just working on getting more exposure and talking to people at markets. People are really supportive and want to know more about who I am and about my bread.
What’s your signature item that people must try?
Sourdough is my main thing and that includes sourdough scones [including amazing currant and vanilla bean scones] as well as other pastries like cookies, but the bread is definitely my specialty.
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