City Bites

BREAKING NEWS: Art Is In keeps its no-compromise promise. The bakery winds down its wholesale bread division to focus on the expansion of the bakery-café

Never happier than when he's searing foie gras to top a burger for guests at his bakery, Kevin Mathieson plans to continue to indulge his passion for cooking.

When Art Is In Bakery started eight years ago, it was a dream come true for Kevin Mathieson and his wife Stephanie. Their passion for the pleasures of handmade bread, done in small batches with constant care and attention, resulted in a line of breathtaking sourdoughs and savoury Dynamite baguettes that shook the capital out of its sliced-bread complacency.

We’ve never looked back. In fact, many of us (myself included) became European shoppers when it comes to bread: with Art Is In Bakery, we finally had a reason to buy our bread fresh daily (or a least a few times a week).

As anyone who has come to know Kevin Mathieson personally can appreciate, he simply doesn’t compromise. Whether it’s the seasoning in the salad dressing or the sprig of rosemary in the French fries, no detail is too small to overlook. I have always found his dedication to excellence and the pursuit of great food inspiring. He told me recently the same thing he said when he started out eight years ago: nothing is more important to him than the quality of his products.

But here’s the thing about running a wildly popular bakery: Artisanal bread-baking is the work of human hands, not machines. As the company has grown to keep up with the increasing demand for Art Is In breads, it has been a struggle to keep that promise.

Meanwhile, since Art Is In moved into its funky retail digs in City Centre, Ottawa has begun to see another side of Chef Mathieson: the artist and baker is also a talented chef. Whether making clam chowder, flatbread pizzas, or smoking those brain-bending burgers on his Big Green Egg, Mathieson found great joy being back in the kitchen, cooking up a storm and indulging his culinary whims.

So when it came time for the Mathiesons to discuss the future of their business, the culinary wonder-couple decided to steer the ship towards Kevin’s great love of cooking.

A cooling rack filled with Art Is In Bakery's famous cheddar, chive & jalapeno dynamite baguettes

“We don’t see the wholesale growing without machines,” says Stephanie, who admits shutting down the wholesale operations is heartbreaking. “It’s how we built our business,” she says, “I just think about all of our loyal customers — it’s the romantic part that’s breaking our hearts.”

So, we’ll no longer be seeing Art Is In bread on the menus of local restaurants across the city, nor will the line of breads be sold at The Ottawa Bagelshop and other retail outlets. But the good news is, the dynamite breads and possibly others will still be sold at Farm Boy locations across the city, as well as select Ottawa Farmers’ Markets this summer.

And of course, the breads that have become a part of our day-to-day lives and Mathieson’s food is still to be found in the place where it is made, every day, by hand, from scratch.

Art Is In Bakery: 250 City Centre Drive, Unit 112.