A few years ago, Simon Blackwell was enjoying a successful career as a chef. This Saturday, he opens the Blackbird Baking Co. in Kensington Market, his first retail location to sell his sour dough loaves, and recently entered into a partnership with famed New York City restaurateurs April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman with an eye for expansion.
Despite hailing from a long line of bakers, the B.C.-born Blackwell worked the line in notable kitchens around the world (London's The River Café and Brackenbury are where he befriended Bloomfield; he was sous chef at Canoe) until a trip to New York City's Sullivan Street Bakery and Amy's Bread forced him to rethink his career path. As he says, "I got so inspired by the quality of the bread down there."
Back home in Toronto, he developed his own sour dough culture (affectionately named "Murray," after his cooking mentor Allan Murray and safely stowed in three locations across the city in case disaster strikes), ran some experiments, and soon after, his wholesale company started doing brisk business at Bellwoods Brewery, Sanagan's Meat Locker, Hooked, and Te Aro, among others. Up until recently, Blackwell ran a production bakery inside Soma Chocolate down at King and Spadina, and now its owners David Castellan and Cynthia Leung are partners in the bakery, as well as Blackwell's wife, Kelsey, a graphic designer.
Then the former Cobs Bread in the Market (neighbor to close friend, Peter Sanagan) came up for sale. They bought their equipment and got down to reworking the 200 square foot retail space. Blackwell couldn't be happier with the area: "I've always had a love for Kensington. Whenever we have friends come to visit it's the first place I want to bring people to show them what Toronto is about." Come Saturday, Toronto will be about Blackbird Baking Co. but Blackwell sees past the city limits: "Not only do we want to make the best bread in Toronto, we want to make the best bread that you've ever had!"