Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks

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Welcome to Public Bake Ovens

Why bake ovens? Over the years, CELOS has found that these small brick or cob structures bring forth delicious pizzas, bread, and new friendships. They are also a magnet for stories of distant places, for community gatherings, and -- more recently -- for regulations. The following sections present the stories, photos, journal entries, newspaper articles, policies, and other documents that CELOS has collected about bake ovens.

Toronto Bake Ovens

Toronto boasts a number of permanent bake ovens in neighbourhoods across the city. Some are in public parks, while others are on private property. Each oven has a different story of how it got built and who built it, and each has its own unique programs. All of the ovens on the list below share the goal of being a public resource.

Dufferin Grove oven 2002

List of Permanent Bake Ovens in Toronto


Tandoor Ovens

Thorncliffe Tandoor Oven Project

The tandoor oven was installed at R.V.Burgess Park in 2013 and first used regularly in 2014. Here is a short Youtube video showing naan bread being made at the park in September 2014. Read more here.

May 30 2014
Portable Tandoor

June 26, 2011 CELOS purchased a portable Tandoor. The tandoor spent several years at Thorncliffe Park's R.V.Burgess Park, until the park got its own tandoor. Then CELOS brought the tandoor back to Dufferin Grove and continued lending it out from there. Read more...

Others examples of Cooking in a Tandoor

Baking bread in Tajikistan

Toronto Guest Baker Project (2010-2011)

Riverdale Dec 4, 2010

Christie Pits, Jan 16, 2011

Alexandra Jan 30, 2011

Mabelle Arts Oven, Nov-Feb

Lawrence Heights Mar 18, 2011

Alexandra Oct 1st 2011

DPNC/The Stop, April 7-8, 2011

Lawrence Heights, April 28, 2011

Artscape Oven, May 6

Falstaff Oven, May 18

Riverdale Farm, May 17

Thorncliffe Park, May 20

Riverdale Farm, May 24, 2011

Pelham Park, June 2

Falstaff, June 15

Cedar Ridge, June 26

Falstaff, Sept. 3

Riverdale Farm, Sept. 5

In 2011 there were eight or nine outdoor bake ovens in Toronto, only a few of which were used regularly throughout the year. The goal of the guest baker project was to learn what assets and challenges each oven has. Each story comes from a baker visiting and baking in the oven, often at a community event where the bread was then served. The process of arranging an occasion and actually baking unfolded according to the characteristics of the oven, logistics of baking, and politics that surrounded it. We hope that our findings help the future use of ovens as well as the building of any new ones. We created a chart from the guest baker project here: Bake Oven Chart

A note from the main guest baker (2010-2011)

Since the first day of my visit to Dufferin Grove Park, I have been in love with the ovens in the park. Ovens are not exactly a part of the Japanese culture I come from, but I have always aspired for one, a wood-fired oven.

Here at the park, the bakers taught me by doing, and I learned by doing. That is the way we decided to do our research.

An outdoor oven is really a wonderful thing to have, and I hope that more people and communities benefit from building one. --Yo Utano

Jeff Connell in front of the Woodlot oven

The first guest gig was on Dec.4 at Riverdale Farm, for their annual "Home for the Holidays" event. Yo was the baking assistant to Jeff Connell, and there was a preparatory meeting at Jeff's new restaurant, The Woodlot. Then as Yo visited each oevn she wrote up the story. You can find out about Yo's experiences at the links at the top of this page.

Here is a youtube post that Yo Utano found, called Uzbec cuisine. Cooking with fire, in all its glory!

Temporary Bake Ovens

Bread and Puppet oven from the front

from the side

There are different ways of making a temporary oven. Two examples are the baking day set-up by baker-artist Wendy Trussler at Healey Willan Park in 2002 (link below), and the oven that often accompanies Vermont's Bread and Puppets Theatre performances when that company tours. That oven was the pattern for the CELOS temporary oven. It's basically a box made of bricks piled on top of each other, with one side left open. Once all the materials are taken to a site, it takes about an hour to assemble the oven. The design is meant to create the simplest oven possible, so that people can enjoy the experience of baking on a brick hearth in their neighbourhood without (or before) going through the much more involved process of building a permanent oven.

Temporary Ovens

Healey Willan

Alan Carlisle community garden oven

"Show on the Road" Ovens

In 2007, as part of the "Show on the Road" grant, CELOS helped run pizza events in other neighbourhoods using a temporary bake oven. The links below connect to each of these events.

Bell Manor Park

Broadlands Rink

Crombie Park

Lakeshore Park

RV Burgess Park

Susan Tibaldi Park

Withrow Park


The official City of Toronto bake oven information page is here.

Most recent bake oven regulations and rules


December 2015, Christie Pits: engineer's stamp rule

It appears that Parks management has made a new rule -- that all ovens must have an engineer's stamp. For this reason, only small pre-stamped pre-fab ovens have currently been approved for installation. Publicbakeovens recommends that community groups not try for such ovens, since they don't work well in public spaces.

This has not been stated directly, but the evidence seems to be there. For example, at Christie Pits the original oven, which was in good repair, was removed from its place in the fall of 2015 and placed at the side for apparent disposal. After some discussion, the oven was put back beside the footings for a new prefab oven. See Christie Pits oven correspondence.

Sequel, 2016:

In the case of Christie Pits the new oven was not small (although the actual hearth size was not much bigger). But the oven was imported from France and a large housing was made for it, Final cost: $161,000.

read more


March 2016, Dufferin Grove Park

barriers to block the public -- but no repairs

New rule: when there's a fire in the ovens, they have to be blocked off.

Reason: so that no passerby or child can jump inside. (Note: in 21 years of oven use, there has never been an injury to the public.)

Effect: On a bread baking day, the bakers have to tend each oven around 10 to 15 times per oven and per firing. That amounts to 20 to 30 times per oven per firing for the two ovens. That adds up to 40 to 60 times of the bakers moving the barricades on Wednesday and 40 to 60 times on Thursday. In addition to that they have to set it up - moving 2 heavy barricades to position them in front of each oven, and afterwards to put them away again.

Note: this new rule appears to be modeled on the Riverdale Farm oven rules. That oven no longer has public use.

barrier at smaller oven

barrier at larger oven
Sequel: summer 2016

The city carpenters devised rather ingenious gates, made of wood, with nice hinges in a barn style. The barriers could themselves catch fire if there were sparks (which there are not), and during baking the gates are left open to give the bakers access -- which means that when there's an active fire in the oven, anyone could still put their hand in the fire. Happily, people don't do that, not before and not now. And the wooden barriers look so much nicer than the metal ones.

oven barriers open when fire is in

oven barriers closed when fire is out

History of the City of Toronto bake oven policy

Bakeoven Policy

August 2011:

Proposed City of Toronto Bake Oven policy: staff report

September 2011:

Response of bake oven users to the staff report: here

Commentary from Dufferin Grove baker Anna Bekerman:

The proposed bake oven policy does not adequately reflect the range of requirements that would foster community use.

Bake ovens can be used for private events like birthday parties, but they need some expertise (more than a BBQ). More commonly, bake ovens are used for a long list of open-to-everyone, community-based events (make-your-own pizza days, community suppers, potlucks, food preserving workshops, community baking, City councillors' community picnics, etc).

The success of community initiatives depends on:

- a) Collaboration with PFR staff. The amount of involvement from PFR staff would vary depending on the needs of any given community, from simply helping access water, kitchen space and bathrooms, to providing oven scheduling assistance, to providing staff. There needs to be clear language in the policy that supports collaboration.

- b) No fees for open-access community events, small as well as large. Open-access community-based initiatives are exempt from user fees in the proposed user fee policy here. If this exemption is ignored, fees will discourage involvement by smaller groups and individuals who are donating their time to provide a service to their communities.

- c) Coverage from the city's insurance. As open-access community-based park activities, these events should be covered by the city's volunteer insurance.


September 2011: This e-mail was sent to each member of the parks committee:

Friday Night Supper

Click to enlarge.

School Visit

Dear Councillor,

Now that last week's bake oven item at Parks and Environment has been deferred (thank you!) until your next committee meeting, could a couple of us come and see you with a little 15-minute presentation one day next week? We'd like to show you some pictures and a 7-minute video of bake oven users' commentary.

We'd also like to show you our alternative way of gaining revenue for the City through City-supported community use of bake ovens. At Dufferin Grove Park, during the last three months, bake ovens helped bring in over $35,000 ("everyone-welcome" pizza days, farmers' market bread baking, Friday night community suppers). All of this revenue was put back into the park programs: CELOS Financial records. We want to make sure that the City's bake oven policy explicitly enables such community uses, not mainly private birthday parties.

May we come and see you some time in the week of Sept.26 at a time that suits you? (I'll follow up this e-mail with a phone call to your staff.)

Jutta Mason
Public Bakeovens/guests


NEW BAKE OVEN POLICY passed on Nov.22, 2011....

by the Parks and Environment Committee -- to charge fees to baker volunteers.

Here are some park oven baker reactions on Youtube: bake oven fees

Here's our deputation (it fell on deaf ears).

Here's our earlier response to the city's bake oven policy. It's in the same format as the policy so that the two documents can be compared more easily. Our approach was to maximize community oven use and stress the need for a collaborative relationship between City staff and bake oven users. This version was not accepted by staff and therefore not considered by the Parks Committee.

Here is our chart of bake ovens in use in 2011

Here is the city's 2011 bake oven policy

Follow-up, one year later (2012):

A year after the bake-oven policy was passed, here is the census of park oven use in 2012 in Toronto:

Christie Pits: 3 times
Edithvale: about 10 times (new oven, started mid-season)
Scadding -- between 8 and 12 times
Riverdale: 31 times
Dufferin (2 ovens) -- 161 times

New public ovens built according to the policy: 0

Follow-up, two years later (2013)

When City Council approved the new policy on Dec.1, 2011, they called for a detailed follow-up report from the PFR general manager two years later:

"City Council direct the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, in collaboration with the community representatives, local stakeholders and councillors, to report back to the Parks and Environment Committee two years after implementation of the policy on how the details of the permitting, fees, construction and operations are working."

We have asked the Parks and Environment Committee whether this report has been scheduled for the December 6 meeting of the committee. No answer.

Note: the new oven installation policy prohibits building bake ovens near ice rinks. That makes the Dufferin Grove and Scadding ovens illegal.

The Thorncliffe Tandoor oven was finally installed and used in the fall of 2013.


Follow-up, three years later (2014)

There was NO oven policy follow-up in 2014 at the Parks and Environment Committee.

See also: Oven Construction

If you want a bake oven for your park...

Caution: there are more and more rules: for example in 2015 it looks like Parks management has made a new rule -- that all ovens must have an engineer's stamp. For this reason, only small pre-stamped pre-fab ovens are now being approved for installation. Publicbakeovens recommends that community groups not try for such ovens, since they don't work well in public spaces. See how these rules grow here.

Cooking with Fire

1. The cost of a bake oven varies a lot:

at an Arts co-op, $1500, volunteer labour, recycled bricks

at a historical museum, $20,000, expert oven builder

If an oven is not locally built but imported from a distance and has designers involved, the cost can go up very high: new Christie Pits oven ordered from France, cost $153,800.


2. Maybe first test local interest with a few campfire cookouts:

breakfast in the park

big pot for goat, little pot for rice

Zakia at the tawa

pancakes at park "sleep-in" protest

3. It's also possible to bake in a temporary oven:

Ovens like this one can be made in an hour with loose bricks and angle iron to hold the roof.

Others, like this one, can last a long time even though they are made without mortar.


4. Permanent ovens come in many different kinds:

Dufferin Grove oven 2002, holds 40 loaves

Lawrence Heights oven has fire in two places


new Christie Pits oven ordered from France, all-in cost: $153,800

lframe% | John Polanyi schoolyard has a barrel oven made with cob

Sociable sitting areas beside ovens

grow2learn schoolyard garden at Lawrence Heights

Alan Carlisle's temporary community garden oven

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Content last modified on August 16, 2016, at 07:09 PM EST