Get to know a Baker: Marc Thobor, Thobors Boulangerie
Many bakeries line the east side of Mt. Pleasant north of Davisville, but none are quite like Thobors, with its baskets of baguettes and croissants, and a staff who greets you in French. I recently sat down with Marc Thobor to discuss the love of bread that keeps him coming back each morning at two or three to start the day.
Did you always want to be a baker?
Yes. My mom was a nurse and my father was a mechanic. It didn't run in the family, I just wanted to do it. I went to school in Cachan sur Marne, a small city close to Paris for three years, and then I moved to Paris.
Who is another baker that inspires you?
Pascal Flandrin. He's not famous famous, but he is good. I worked at Flandrin for two and a half years. He's in Charenton-le-Pont, which is very close to Paris. After that, my wife learned pastry and chocolate with him. That is why now we have pastries and chocolate in the shop.
Now, when I need something, like if I ever have a problem with the croissant dough, I can get him on the phone. I call him and I ask him, "what can I do?" He says add more water, use less water, and I make it better.
What is the most important baking tip you learned in training?
Have patience with the bread. With the flour, the butter, and all the ingredients that make up the dough. Different breads need different temperatures, some not too much salt, but with others a little bit more salt.
Do you have a favourite thing to bake?
For me, it's everything. I mean, from sourdough, to poppyseed, to seven grain bread.
How do you come up with new recipes?
It's experience. I taste the bread wherever I go, and then I make it myself.
Do you ever offer any new items in the bakery?
Sometimes we add something different, but when we change the customers always come back and they ask for the old one, so then I have to change back. I add some new items, but moreso, the pastries change seasonally. My wife is the pastry chef and she makes the chocolates. In the kitchen, we make different soups. In the summer, we start with the cold soup: gazpacho. At Christmas, the cakes, chocolates, and pastries are different.
We just started making a coconut banana pastry. It's a square of croissant dough, with cream, coconut and banana--we cover it and put some banana on the top. It's not my creation but I saw it in a pastry book and wanted to try it. We only do it on the weekends.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We use ingredients from Canada, just the butter for the croissants comes from Belgium. I wanted to make some different breads, only the flour was from France. Maybe it was possible to make the bread, but it's too hard to get the ingredients--all those big bags of flour.
Who is your typical customer?
We get a lot of French customers. We get about 40% of French-speaking customers. When we started it was maybe 10%, but now it's like forty, fifty. At Christmastime, many more come.
What do you do when you're not baking?
Relax and enjoy my two daughters, and my wife. We like to go to restaurants and to go out shopping. Here, we like to go to Viva Napoli, Mogette Bistro, and there are others we visit closer to my house. We live about fifteen minutes away.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Favourite baking ingredient? Butter.
Best baking tool? The separator (for cutting dough).
Best beverage to have with a croissant? Hot chocolate, for me. I don't drink coffee.
One baked good you can't live without? The baguette.
Best-selling baked good at Thobors? The almond croissant.
For more baker profiles, visit our Toronto Bakers Pinterest Board.
Photos by Stephani Buchman