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The Sourdough We Didn’t Know We Kneaded: Nat’s Bread Company

If you love our sandwiches, you’re gonna love Nat’s Bread Company, who supplies us with fresh and dough-licious bread! Founded by Natali Harea, Nat’s Bread Co. is a local wholesale bakery in Ottawa. We had a fun chat with Natali to learn about Nat’s Bread Co., and we are excited to tell you about them!

Can you please introduce yourself and your business?

My name is Natali Harea and I own Nat's Bread Company. We are a wholesale bakery in Ottawa.

How did Nat’s Bread Company start?

I started Nat’s Bread Company about 10 years ago. Before I started, I was a chef, working in restaurants in Ottawa. I'd always wanted to own my own business and I wanted it to be food related, but I didn't really want to own a restaurant. I have always been really interested in making bread, and I still wanted to be involved with restaurants and work alongside them in a way. That's why I had the idea to develop a small scale wholesale production business for other restaurants and hotels.

What makes you love making bread?

I guess there are a lot of things. It seems now that I'm really into the ritual of it - it eases my mind most of the time. If I start doing it, I can get lost in it and I don't feel the stress or anxiety of other things in life.

It also connects me to my ground, my heritage, and my grandmother. My grandmother taught me how to make bread. She's a really crucial figure in my life, and since she passed away, [making bread] is just a really nice way to still feel connected to her. She was my inspiration for this bakery.

What kind of bread do you sell, and what is a must-try at Nat’s Bread Company?

We sell all sorts of different types of bread. I would say sourdough is a must-try. Sourdough is a majority of our business. We make white sourdough, whole wheat sourdough, rye sourdough, sourdough baguettes, sourdough buns, and we're always looking at developing new different types of bread if we have time. Sourdough is how we started first when I started the business. It was the only type of bread we made [back then], and we have since expanded. We do lots of pretzels, which are very good. I would suggest trying those too!

I did a little digging on your website and I saw that you mentioned Stan, your sourdough starter. Can you talk a little more about it?

Our sourdough starter’s name is Stan, and he is a cultivation of flour, water and bacteria that I made myself 11 or 12 years ago. It's the same starter we've been using and we just feed it and refresh it every day. It's essentially a living creature in our space, and a part of our team. Every day around the same time he is expecting a meal, so we give him more flour and water, and then he gets bubbly and happy! We use some of that to make our sourdough.

What makes your bread special? What makes it better than the ones that they can find at grocery stores like Loblaws or Walmart?

What you're gonna find at Loblaws and Walmart will be cheaper for sure, but it's not made in Ottawa. In terms of the effects on our environment, climate change and global warming, the bread that you're buying at Walmart has been transported from who knows where, on a big truck using a lot of gas. That's the first reason you don't want to buy [their products].

Also, if you compare the ingredients list of say a bag of Wonder Bread and a bag of our sourdough, you'll notice there's far less ingredients in our sourdough. We don't add any added sugars, fat or stabilizers. It's really just flour, water and salt. So if you do find that you're sensitive to eating different breads but you don't have celiac disease, it could actually be that you're sensitive to over-processed breads. It's maybe not the wheat in the product but all the other things that they put into a bag of sliced bread at the grocery store. Our bread is just a pure product that’s made locally with 100% Canadian flour, so there are many reasons to buy our bread.

How did your partnership with Haven start, and what is your experience working with Sam and the Haven team so far?

It's been great. We work directly with all of our clients, and we have unique relationships. We understand that each client has unique needs. Every business that uses bread uses it in a different capacity and for different reasons, and so we try to really personalize our experience with each of our wholesale clients. I think Sam reached out to us through our website and was looking for some bread for Haven, so we sent them some samples and then settled on which type they wanted to use. It's been a great experience, and we really like working with Haven.

Is there an exciting project that Nat’s Bread Company is working on at the moment? 

The next big thing that we're prepping for, which might seem early, is that we're thinking ahead to Christmas. We do a lot of different Christmas products that are available to order on our website, and they're also available through our wholesale clients. 

We're working on making sure that we have the right amount of staff in place and trying to figure out how we're going to manage it all, because Christmas is quite busy for us. We had a very busy summer season with farmer’s markets and they're all coming to an end this month, so we're just winding down and preparing to go into the busy Christmas season.

What are your Christmas specials?

We make two different types of Christmas breads. One is called Stollen, which is a German-Style Christmas bread. It's got a lot of almond and dried fruit in it - it's almost like a German fruitcake. 

And then we also make a Romanian Christmas bread that is my heritage. My father is Romanian and my grandmother, who is my inspiration for this business, was Romanian. She used to always make this Christmas bread for us growing up. It's called Cozonac, and now we produce it on a large scale here for businesses and also for private orders. 

We do a lot of private orders at Christmas and especially for Cozonac. There aren't many places to get it from bakeries in Ottawa because it's not really one of the most popular breads. But there's quite a large Romanian community here in Ottawa so we make bread for them.

We do Chocolate Rum Balls as well as part of our Christmas offerings.

It's so nice that you're sharing your grandma's Heritage to people in Canada!

You know what's really nice? Before the pandemic, we didn't use to do private orders or home deliveries - we were 100% wholesale. And then when Covid hit, we started offering our products through our website to individuals, and then we started offering the Christmas products as well to individuals online. We'd have people who would order our bread throughout the year, and they would try out the Christmas products even if they didn't know what they were. I'm hearing from people who email me and say that they love the Cozonac, and it has become a part of their tradition on Christmas mornings to eat it with their families. And they're not Romanian at all! It's really nice to see how that is spreading. It's such a wonderful core memory for me to eat Cozonac on Christmas mornings, and I'm so happy that we can spread that joy!

Feeling like a taste of Nat’s Bread Company’s sourdough? We have it rye-ght here at Haven!

And we use it to make our fan-favourite sandwiches:

  • Tandoori Chicken on a ciabatta bun ($5/$10)
  • Adobo Pork Torta on a sourdough kaiser bun ($5/$10)
  • Panini Al Tonno on black olive focaccia ($5/$10)
  • Vegan Pesto Caprese on foccacia ($6/$12)
  • Haven Breakfast on a maple and oat bun ($6)