“Dawnthebaker” is Dawn Woodward’s hotmail account name, and that is how I often think of her, kneading a dough, shaping a cracker, slashing a baguette, setting and inventive and delicious tart out on a plate for a catered event.
Of course there is far more to Dawn than baking, but she did come into our lives with her baker’s cap on. I first met her more than 10 years ago, at an artisanal baking conference at Greystone, the CIA’s Napa campus. She was living in Toronto at the time, working as a consultant at Ace Bakery. They’d brought her up from the States because of her gleaming credintials and experience: 5 years and finalist in the competition for spots on the US Baking Team that ended up bring back the gold medal at the World Baking competition in Paris in 1997.
She left Ace that fall and came traveling me to India. We spent the millennium turnover together at Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum in sourthern Kerala, India. Dawn shared a room with my two kids, then boys of 9 and 12, played with us all on the beach, went running with me in the mornings, and danced with us late into the night as the clock turned us into the year 2000.
A few days later she put on her pack and headed north to travel through India, before flying to Thailand and traveling in northern Thailand, Laos, and China’s Yunnan Province all on her own.
She’s brave, is Dawn, and travels with her eyes and her palate open. I still have notes she sent me of foods she tasted in Gujarat on that trip, notes that were very helpful to me when I finally made it there four years later. After that long adventure she returned to the US. A second solo trip took her to Syria and Lebanon, as well as Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. In all those places she came accross interesting food; later she developed recipes drawing on all that travel experience. After she returned from that trip she spent a good chunk of the winter here in Toronto helping me with the recipe work for HomeBaking. She returned to the US and started working in Washington DC, finally settling at Obelisk, a fine Italian restaurant.
In 2003 she met Chef Ed Rek in DC. They moved to Philadelphia and married the following year. After restaurant and catering work, and developing a good reputation in Philly, they moved to Toronto in the fall of 2007. By then they were three; there daughter Evelyn was born in the Spring of 2006. In Toronto they settled near Dufferin Grove Park, and Dawn started to work on her business idea, a cracker business.
In the Spring of 2008 they launched Evelyn’s Crackers, using local organic grains and other local ingredients, making the crackers by hand in the incubator kitchen, and selling them at farmer’s markets. They’ve had rave reviews, and now have a solid following. Dawn continues to fine-tune the crackers, adding new ones and tweaking the originals. These days she also makes sweets, using the same organic grains (red Fife flour figures largely) to make shortbreads and cookies.
While getting the cracker business growing, Dawn and Ed have also been busy with the local food movement, promoting local grains and consumer awareness of the wealth of Ontario agriculture. Most recently Dawn was a speaker at a forum held by the ROM called “Canadian Sweet Treats”. After her presentation on the hisory of maple syrup, Red Fife wheat, Mackintosh apples, and Amish and Mennonite settlements, the chair of the events said, “It took and American to give us a lesson in Ontario’s food history!”.
Naomi Duguid is a cook, cookbook author, food writer, photographer, and past recipient of the Women’s Culinary Network Woman of the Year. Her website: http://www.immersethrough.com/