Canada’s Wheat-heart; Shasha Navazesh

Shasha Navazesh, owner of ShaSha organic bakery, is more alchemist savant than baker. When it comes to baking, Navazesh claims that bread is life and he has a very definite idea of what life should be like; “How we spend our day is, of course, how we spend our life,” he says as he stalks with purpose through is immaculate plant. Navazesh is the owner of Ontario’s leading organic bakery that supplies nutritious, natural products to an ever-growing list of retail outlets. Best known for its sourdough breads and cookies ShaSha has become one of Canada’s leading artisanal bakeries.

Artisanal is the new black and hipsters the world over use the phrase to describe anything handmade or old timey but at ShaSha, the proof really is in the pudding. Here things are done consciously, carefully and with passion.

It all began in the late 90’s when Navazesh was a chef of great acumen and acclaim who had already opened several successful restaurants in Toronto and was working for a leading hotel chain. That’s when he heard his favorite bakery was to be demolished; “I quit the best job I had ever had the very next day. I rented the back of the bakery and started to bake bread,” he said. From its humble beginnings in the back of a tiny bakery, Navazesh was quick to capitalize on the popularity of his breads. Within eight months, he moved the operation to a 750-square-metre plant in Etobicoke, Ontario, one of two he currently utilizes. Today he manufactures about 3,500 units of fresh bread and baked products a day and serves customers throughout Canada and the U.S.

If bread is the symphony of life, Navazesh is its conductor. For him, bread is the perfect synergy of microbiology, health and art. He has a background in microbiology and perfected the science of bread making during his tenure as a student at George Brown University. He continues to be a student of food chemistry visiting over 25 countries to discover new techniques and ingredients. The science of bread is an exacting one and the ShaSha plants are finely oiled machines. Exacting standards ensure that only the finest ingredients are used and each one is quality tested before getting the green light to be used on the factory floor.

Navazesh places the greatest import on the health and nutrition of his products. He has learned that if you want something done properly, its best to do it yourself. Unhappy with commercial yeasts that are bereft of essential probiotics, he grows his own. Since sprouts carry more nutrition than grains, he sprouts his grains then dehydrates them and mills them into the flour that his bread is made from. It’s this attention to detail that lets you know that he really has your best interests at heart.

Not only does he create products he can be proud of, but he does so in an environmentally friendly way too; sourcing ingredients locally, providing energy for the plant from a roof-top solar array and using energy efficient machinery to reduce consumption.

The last arrow in Navazesh’s quiver is his passion which elevates his baking to an art form. He hails from Azerbaijan and his baking style is steeped in the ways of the old country: “I’ve always loved bread. Since I was a little boy, I would go to the bakery to buy bread for my family. I love the smell of it and the feel of it,” he says. It’s his desire to create bread that is healthy and delicious that drives him; “I practice what I preach. I don’t make anything I wouldn’t eat myself… and I am a fussy bastard,” he says.

Navazesh’s passion and drive are certainly paying off as ShaSha enjoys unprecedented growth and success as one of Canada’s leading organic bakeries. Perhaps his success is thanks to his genuine desire to use his powers for good and perhaps it’s just because his baking is just so damn delicious.