Nat's Bread Company - Natali
Tell us a little about yourself?
I'm in my early 30's, married to a wonderful man named James. We have a 1.5 year old son named Clifford, and 2 cats - Charlie and Tokyo :). I have been working in the food industry in Ottawa since I was 18 years old, when I started working at The Black Cat Cafe in my summer break from the Algonquin College culinary program. Both of my parents are professional classical musicians, and I was born in Caracas, Venezuela while they both were working in the orchestra there.
What were the initial challenges when you launched Nat’s Bread?
The main challenge for me was sorting out how to make consistent, beautiful, good quality bread on a large scale. Before opening Nat's Bread Co I had only made maybe 10 loaves at a time in commercial kitchens. As soon as we opened the bakery, I was doing bread for all 3 of Stephen Beckta's restaurants, which put us at 60-80 loaves per night. It was a big adjustment with a lot of failed loaves!
Where can one find your delicious bread?
Our bread is available for purchase at...
Thyme and Again - both locations
The Unrefined Olive in Kanata
McKeen Metro in the Glebe
We also supply bread to dozens of Ottawa restaurants.
Throughout the summer, we have our own booths at the following markets, where the public has the opportunity to purchase directly from us:
The Kanata Farmer's Market
The Stittsville Farmer's Market at the barn
The Log Farm Farmer's Market
The Byward Market (Wed/Thurs/Sat/Sun)
Describe your products in 3 words?
Crusty, Wholesome, Fermented.
Favourite bread to eat?
Our white sourdough. It's the first bread that I created when we opened Nat's Bread Company. In my opinion it's the tastiest and most versatile. It can be used for sandwiches, toast, croutons, bread pudding...
The longest you have gone without bread? :)
haha...I'm being totally honest here...I think 6 hours at the most!
When you aren’t busy baking/ running the business where do like to spend time in the city and why?
In the summertime, our backyard garden is where we try to spend as much time as possible. We have a veggie garden back there as well as some nicely established flower beds, and Clifford can play in the grass and the sprinkler!
But out and about in the city - Lately we've been spotted at Dominion City and Tooth and Nail for some afternoon bevvies. Stella Luna and Beachconers for ice cream. Anything to beat this insane heat!! If James and I want to go out for an evening just us 2, we're likely to be eating at Beckta Dining and Wine or The Pomeroy House.
How many people does Nat’s Bread employ? And how would you describe the work culture?
We have 3 full time bakers, 2 part time bakers, 2 dishwashers, a delivery driver, and for the summer - 3 individuals who man our market booths. We are a very tight knit family. I think it's inevitable when the business is so small, and when we work such weird hours together in a hot, small space. You get close quick, whether you like it or not.
The most important thing to me when dealing with employees is mutual respect. Respect for one another as employees, respect for your employer and expecting respect from your employer. My role is basically to provide my staff with the tools they need to thrive in our work environment. That can mean different things at different times. Anything from feeding them dinner or treating them to coffee and pastries, to purchasing new equipment to ease the production process or giving out pay raises.
Why do you think your concept has been so successful?
I think it's because we have chosen to focus 100% on the wholesale aspect of the business. This means that we are committed to providing our restaurant clients with the consistency and reliability they insist upon. We aren't busy running a retail shop and trying to get the wholesale bread baked and delivered on time. The wholesale bread is our one and only commitment.
What’s the toughest thing in the food business?
Making a profit. As anyone in the food business knows, once you've paid your rent, utilities, bills, repairs, staff....it's hard to find anything left. We've always worked towards paying a living wage (even before this January), but trying to balance that living wage with our pricing structure is tough, but do able. Bread is especially hard because most people have a pretty low limit to what they think is a reasonable price to pay for a loaf of bread.
Any local businesses that helped you along the way?
Yes! Stephen Beckta (and his then business partner Michael Moffatt), who owns Beckta, Play and Gezellig. He let me use the basement of Gezellig when we opened up, for very little rent, and he helped me with purchasing the equipment I needed to start up. He's also been a customer of ours since day one.
McKeen Metro in the Glebe was our first retail client. They took a chance on carrying our bread only 4 months into our business, and it got us great exposure and really helped to grow the business.
The Urban Element - When we were no longer able to rent the kitchen space at Beckta, the owners of the Urban Element put us in touch with St Paul University, where we were able to move to, renting their catering kitchen in off hours, and continue to grow our business. We stayed there until March of this year.
Lastly, what’s your personal goal for the business?
For the past 5 years, my goal for Nat's Bread Company was to open our own, stand alone production kitchen. We achieved this goal earlier this year. Until then, we had been quite nomadic - renting other businesses established kitchen space when they weren't using it. I'm still kind of basking in the fact that I've achieved this big goal, and have yet to set another one for myself at the moment.