Get to know a Baker: Lesley Mattina, OMG Baked Goodness
In the heart of Little Portugal, on a sunny morning, I meet with Lesley Mattina, owner of OMG Baked Goodness. The bright pink OMG sign (pronounced oh-em-gee) definitely stands out along Dundas West, and I can immediately see the draw to the retail space as happy customers filter in to grab their daily treats. Among the delicious smells and sights, we discuss her career, the future of the shop, and what she most enjoys baking.
Have you always known you wanted to be a baker?
Not always. I always enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom as a fun thing to do, but I really didn't find my passion until I went away to university and spent time cooking for myself and feeding my roommates. I definitely knew that once I finished university--although I was studying psychology--I would figure out how to get into the culinary world.
This all occurred to me during the era of Martha Stewart--she was presenting food in a way that I had never considered before. It became more than just sustenance and tradition; it became a fun and interesting challenge.
Where did you learn to bake?
Instead of going to culinary school, I chose to get some experience in the industry first. I learned from fantastic chefs who gave me the opportunity and platform to learn rather than going to school and being given a recipe and a book. I worked with amazing people who taught me everything I know, and more. I started out in Niagara for four years and then went abroad.
I had the opportunity to stage at Gordon Ramsey's Royal Hospital Road and experience high-end fine-dining food. Starting out my career in high-end dining allowed me to see how to do everything in the most perfect way. I learned those perfectionist foundations and figured out my own style from there.
What's your favourite thing to bake?
Far and away, it's bread. It was one of the first things I made that kind of did something to me. When you're creating something that comes alive from just a few simple ingredients, it's really invigorating. Bread rises, then it falls, and then it rests; it needs nap time. Bread is fascinating. To make bread, I love that your temperature can't be too warm and it can't be too cold, and what you do to it with your hands means everything.
With your location being at Dundas West and Dufferin, what are the busiest times for you? How important is the non-retail side of your business?
During the week, we may have a morning rush of people picking up stuff for their day, and then again after work. During the weekends it is steadily busy all day, but the wholesale part of our business is vital. It makes up about 80% of our business and is how we started off. When I was initially looking for a large cooking space it was just going to be for wholesale purposes.
We ended up finding this space because a friend of mine who lives down the road walked by one day and saw it was available, and it was perfect. After that, I had to change my plans because it would've been a missed opportunity to ignore this retail space. I faced some challenges with not having initially budgeted for retail. Now, we use the retail space as a platform to develop products--people taste them, we get the feedback and then we offer it on a wider scale to our wholesale clients.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received as a baker?
Michael Olsen was my very first chef and he said, "Scrape your bowls, scrape your bowls." What I mean by that is, don't waste, because everything matters and adds up. As a cook it may seem like so much more work, but as a business owner that means everything to me. Pennies count. That piece of advice was something that I heard within the first couple weeks of being in a kitchen, and it resonates every day with me.
What is the most rewarding part about owning your own bakery?
Starting exclusively in kitchens, I was really behind the scenes and didn't get to interact with the clients and the people that I was feeding. You become disconnected when you're working in a kitchen and someone else is serving the customers and getting their feedback. Now I'm able to have that one-on-one experience with people coming in every day. It has been so rewarding to meet the people that have been eating the food, and getting their response.
Any future plans you can tell us about?
We are looking to focus on one or two of our best-selling products to prepare them for resale nation-wide. We'll concentrate on specific product development to be able to provide product across Canada, which is technically going back to the original plan. Ideally, we would have focused on the resale products sooner had I had the time.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Best baking tool? Your hands. There are so many tools that you can buy for one use only, but your hands can do many so many different things.
One ingredient you can't live without? Salt.
Strangest thing in your fridge at home? We make our own dog food so we have dog food pucks of blended vegetables in our fridge.
Favourite Toronto bakery that's not yours? Bobbette & Belle. Sarah Bell is one of my best friends.
One baked good we won't ever find in your bakery? I can't say a specific baked good, but you'll never see something that looks nicer than it tastes. I want things that taste better than they look.
Favourite cookbook? Baking with Julia by Julia Child. It was one of my first baking books and I still go back to it even though it's tattered and worn.
For more baker profiles, visit our Toronto Bakers Pinterest board.
Photos by Natta Summerky