While he was living in Squamish for a few years and working in pest control, Vadim Mugerman happened to start baking, discovering a passion for making fresh bread. The Moscow native decided he wanted to learn from the masters, so he booked a plane ticket to France, bought a cheap car once he got there, and went knocking on doors.
Sleeping in his vehicle at night, he would offer to work at small bakeries for free so that he could pick up techniques and tips from people who know what it takes to make good bread.
“The first woman I met, in Albertville, was milling her own flour right there,” Mugerman tells the Georgia Straight. “I knew at that moment that not only would I open a bakery but that I would also have to mill my own flour. The flavour just blew me away.”
Nowadays, Mugerman runs Bad Dog Bread. The recently opened organic, artisan bakery in North Vancouver shares a space with Orto Artisan Pasta. (The Italian restaurant is run by Brigitte Rayé—formerly of West Vancouver’s La Régalade and La Cigale in Kitsilano—and her son Steeve. Like Bad Dog Bread, it has quickly become a favourite of the locals.)
The bakery takes its name from Mugerman’s girlfriend’s rescue dog, Tommy, who ate an entire organic loaf Mugerman had purchased at Victoria’s Fol Epi bakery (“gone in a matter of minutes”). The next week, the pup took a full bag of freshly milled flour right out of the baker’s bag and consumed it just as quickly.
Mugerman’s naturally leavened artisan loaves of bread take about 26 hours in total to make. His products vary from day to day but include brioche and fougasse, a flat, leaf-shaped bread that originated in France; he makes different versions of the latter with olives, oregano, hot peppers, and other ingredients. Loaf varieties include fresh rosemary, pecan and fig, whole-wheat coriander-and-raisin, rye, sesame, and sourdough.
He also makes sweets such as cinnamon buns, chocolate brioche buns, and sea-salt-and-chocolate-chip cookies.
The first step toward making all of those baked goods is milling the flour. Avoiding conventional grocery-store flour that can sit on shelves for years and is a highly processed food, Mugerman appreciates freshly milled flour for its taste, character, texture, aroma, and nutritional value. He also likes being able to know exactly how and where the grains he is using are grown and by whom.
Mugerman sources organic wheat from True Grain on Vancouver Island and mills it in a small stone mill that he purchased in Idaho. He hopes to expand his current space soon and add two more. “My dream is to have my own silo,” he says.
Prices range from $4 for a rustic baguette to $8 for a hearty fresh-rosemary loaf. In addition to the North Van spot, which serves coffee, tea, sweets, and breakfast toast with toppings, Bad Dog Bread can be found at local farmers markets, including those at Lonsdale Quay, Ambleside, and Burnaby.