Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks


Artscape Artist Co-op's oven

December 2019 from Gene Threndyle (oven builder and baker)

We did use the oven twice this year. The first time was for a pizza party for 2 brothers, a preteen and a young teen across the hall from me. All I have to say about that is that I am glad I come from a generation who were never asked what we wanted to eat as children. It was all I could do to put a pizza in our oven with pre-sliced pepperoni that came vacuum packed in plastic. Anyway I’m glad I did that since the kids really did seem to enjoy it.

I also had pizza party later in the summer. It is really a lot of work and there can be problems. You can’t really run a kitchen with everyone doing what they want especially when they don’t always know how to cook over fire, so you have to have social/political skills on top of everything else. But it was a really nice mix of people and the food ended up being very tasty. I hired someone to help with clean-up just so I could feel confident to ask for things to be done.

Here are some pics of the pizza party. The young Chinese kid, Ya Yang is part of a family that spends most of their year in China. He doesn’t look too interested in the picture but in fact he was tremendously enthusiastic about making pizza. He doesn’t speak much English but I taught him “See ya later alligator.”

August 2015

Link to a July 24 garden fundraiser at the Artscape oven: Youtube clip. The sitting area by the oven is very inviting.

Summer 2014

Luca from Terroni

In summer and fall there were two Artscape parties in the garden at the artists' coop. In summer, local restaurants helped with a summer fundraiser, using the Artscape oven, for the Logie Place Community Garden across the lane way. In October, Gene Threndyle roasted squash in the oven for a big fall soup, and various people made focaccia to go with it.

the Artscape oven

squash roasting in the oven

squash soup

focaccia, dough from Boccone's on Yonge Street

soup and focaccia

Daya Van Damm formerly of Sud Forno

Fabio Papa, head baker at Sud Forno

Guest Baker May 6, 2011

Report by guest baker Yo Utano.

The Artscape oven.

“How come you are not baking with our oven?” is what Gene Threndyle said when he heard about our project. So here we are at Artscape Artist Coop's garden.

Gene built this oven in 2005, and holds about 6 pizza parties every summer.

The oven fits in pleasantly with the garden that surrounds it, where daffodils and tulips are blooming out of stone edge beds.

There is a big dinner table underneath grape vines next to the barbecue place that Gene also built; a couple of tables by the oven make counter space to prepare food or to hang around the pizza's a very cozy space for outdoor gatherings.

Gene mopping the oven.

Gene had started a fire at 9:30, and it was burned all white by the time I got there at 2. Sadly, it showered on and off throughout the afternoon.

We didn't like that, but what can you do? Gene cleaned the oven and we started prepping pizza toppings while waiting for the oven to cool down a little.

As far as bread is concerned, it was a good day. From the day before when I mixed the doughs, I could afford to dedicate my time and care to the bread because I didn't have much else to do.

Flexibility and mild spring temperatures made it possible for the dough to develop fully for both the first and the second rising.

The sourdoughs turned out well.

The bread I made today was:

  • White sourdough bread with a touch of rye
  • Whole Wheat, cornmeal and sunflower seeds with both sourdough and yeast
  • Sweet pure rye

I like how they looked, and they tasted good too. The pure rye loaf sweetened with honey was almost like a dense cake.

Gene made a big pot of slow-cooked chickpea soup with lemon and olive oil. Onions, potatoes, green garlic and dandelion greens for pizza were cooked on the barbecue place.

The sky was getting lighter and by the time people came it had cleared up.

Gene's pizza.

We enjoyed Gene's soup with fresh bread. Earlier showers kept some people from coming out and there was way too much food, but we decided to make a few pizzas.

Gene's pizza looked and tasted like one at a trendy restaurant -green garlic, dandelion greens, garlic & citrus infused goat cheese and sun-dried olives.

Different saltiness from the cheese and olives, different flavours of garlic, sourness from cheese, and bitter kick of dandelion all nicely mixed in my mouth. I wanted to chew more to taste it well, but I also had to talk. It's difficult to fully experience the food and socialize at the same time.

A friend of Gene's had made clafouti and it was about to go in when I left.

People arrived as the sky cleared.

I hear that there is one tenant who is very unhappy about the oven for whatever reasons, but she didn't come out today and I got no story from her.

Other than that, this oven seems to be loved. One of the residents of the building told me how beautiful the oven looked in the snow.

The oven is in people's living space, which is a bit different than other ovens. Even though it doesn't get used that much, the oven greets the residents every morning, rain, shine or snow.

This was its first working day of the season, and I'm sure it hopes to work lots more over the summer.

Making gourmet pizzas.

The oven and garden.

Yo preparing some veggies.

Green garlic for the pizzas.

Firing the oven.

Enjoying the day.

Cooking dough over the grill.

Here's the story of the oven's inaugural baking, written by oven builder and baker Gene Threndyle, October 2005.
Artscape Artists' Co-op bake-oven starts baking

Last February there was a fund-raiser Friday Night Supper at the rink house, for Gene Threndyle's Artscape Artists' Co-op bake-oven at Queen and Crawford. We raised $320, and Gene put that together with other funds and built an oven out in their yard. Their first pizza fire [October 22, 2005] was in the pouring rain, but well-attended. Here's Gene's account of the first fire:

In spite of Hurricane Wilma or who ever that constant rain was that only let up for a couple hours around midnight, we went ahead with our inaugural pizza night at 900 Queen West. We had been up late most nights that week trying to get the chimney finished so that we could do basic baking. It turns out that we do need insulation on top of the oven to do bread and I think we need more soft wood for our firing to get a quick hot heat. For pizza though, so far so good.

By 8pm a few hardcore souls were showing up and we had tables set up on the porch under the building's front canopy and we used the lobby as well. Another lesson learned from Dufferin Grove, use what ya got. There were about 12 people when the first pizza came out and that incredible cheese from the organic market was a huge hit. Dionisio who had run a take-out pizza place on Airport Road when he was 15 took over putting them together.

By the third pizza Bruno and Susan decided that we had to take one over to Marcello at Bar One because they had given us the dough. Bruno took off down the street running with a pizza on the bread peel straight through the bar and back to the kitchen where he demanded the staff all taste the pizza he'd baked.

Marcello seemed almost as amused as the rest of the staff but very thoughtfully ate our offering before passing judgement. "That tastes like my uncle's pizza in Italy" he said and we roared our approval.

When finally the rain let a little someone decided to light a small fire in our wet gravel courtyard. Well it wouldn't be an official outdoor oven inauguration without the fire department and within the hour they arrived sirens wailing.

They walked around our soggy, gravelly garden and decided that there was little danger of the fire spreading. A legal fire though in Toronto has to have a grill over it and be being used for the preparation of food. We showed the guys our oven and they seemed a bit impressed and left advising us to keep the fire only for the preparation of food or put it out.

Luckily Jungle Ling had made these superb grills from salvaged metal from the spit complete with wooden handles. We had intended to grill on them except for the rain. We revised our plan so that we could keep the fire going and we had some food grilling on them by the time the firefighters returned.

It seems that one tenant in our building who wished to remain anonymous and who did not wish to talk to the fire chief had again phoned 911 again about our fire. They did try to contact her and tell here that not only was there no danger but we were preparing food. They had just gotten back into their truck when once again Bruno took off into the night with a pizza on a peel for all the guys in the truck. Again we got praise all round.

So in spite of the cold and the damp and one unfriendly neighbour another offspring of the Dufferin Grove Oven has been inaugurated down on 900 Queen Street West. We can see that there are problems that we will have to address as we finish it but we are looking forward to many more opportunities to make food, it's preparation and eating in our garden a focal point of our neighbourhood.

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Content last modified on December 07, 2019, at 03:49 PM EST