Bread has been a staple in Canadian homes for generations. It’s a food that many Canadians have been raised on and in many homes, represents a significant part of a family’s diet. Recently, however, questions have emerged about the health of bread and the ever-trending gluten-free movement has cast the once popular staple as a fattening, nutritionally bankrupt holdover.
The baking industry is trying to combat these attitudes by educating consumers. “It’s when companies put other chemicals in their bread to extend the shelf life 25 to 30 days, that’s what’s really bad for you,” says Marcus Mariathas, Senior Director of Product Development at Toronto-based ACE Bakery. “I use clean, simple ingredients and they’re good for you.”
Mariathas’s 23-year baking career has been all about making healthy and delicious products. In 1995, he was studying to become an accountant when he took a part-time job at ACE Bakery. Mariathas had no previous experience with baking but found it was his true calling. Because of his passion, he rose to the role of Senior Director of Product Development. Mariathas was selected in February 2018 to compete for the title of World Master Baker in Paris, France, after he and his Canadian teammates placed seventh in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, a competition which aims at developing the quality of bread throughout the world and promoting the baking profession. He represented Canada in the Artisan Breads of the World category, where team Canada was ranked best in the Americas.
We spoke to Mariathas about the competition and what inspires him.
How did you fare in the World Master Baker competition?
The competition went very well. I was happy with what I accomplished. I went there and did what I wanted to do. It was a great honour to be at that level and compete with the world’s best. I was one of the top six bakers in the world. I would have personally loved to have won the title [of World Master Baker], but the competition was very tight and extremely competitive. I was 3.5 to 3.8 per cent away from winning. Regardless, I was with happy with what I did and am proud.
What inspired you to become a baker?
I saw this industry as a global industry, something I could really appreciate and enjoy throughout my life. When I was younger I had the opportunity to work with master bakers from Germany and France and they really helped to guide my interest into baking; they taught me what worked and what didn’t. All of this contributed to my passion and inspired me to continue baking.
How many recipes have you created? Which is your personal favourite?
At ACE Bakery, we have developed over 200 recipes for different types of bread and nine starters which the bread is made from. I personally love the baguettes; it’s the kind of food that is good at any time of day and once you start eating a baguette it’s basically impossible to stop without finishing the whole thing.
What would you like to see more of in 2018?
I’d like to see this upcoming generation really take notice and get involved within the culinary industry. That can be learning how to become a great baker or a great chef. I always like to see youth becoming more involved in culinary industry. I hope the passion will continue not just in 2018, but going forward.