Il Secondo, Saskatoon: Christie’s Bakery Opens a Second Location
It’s 4 in the morning and Tracey Muzzolini is making bread at Christie’s Bakery on 33rd Street. She’ll be across town, at Broadway and 10th, opening up Il Secondo, the bakery’s second location, by 7 am.
The day will pass quickly as she makes and bakes one pizza after another in the wood-fired oven. Her brother and business partner, Blair Muzzolini, will join her at lunchtime. The last call for pizza is at 5:30, and Tracey will be on her way home at 7:30 pm after a 15-hour work day. This is a short-term solution, but it is nonetheless a huge amount of work.
“I do get a little tired in the afternoon,” Tracey says. “I’m quite proud of myself for keeping up. The food industry seems romantic, but you have to love it because you put a lot in.”
A Baking Tradition
The Christie brothers opened Christie’s Bakery in 1932 at its current location at 420 33rd Street West. Tracey’s parents, Janet and Ennio Muzzolini, bought the bakery in 1965, and Tracey and her brother Blair have worked there their whole lives.
Tracey spent 5 years in Australia and 5 years in Toronto 13 years ago. In Toronto she was doing makeup for film and television, but work with Chef Susur Lee at Lotus restaurant brought her back to the food industry, and she returned to Saskatoon and the family business to evolve her own baking style.
Tracey’s first step was to develop a line of artisan breads – a first for Saskatoon. She took classes from the Bread Bakers Guild of America, a non-profit alliance that was formed in 1993 to shape the skills and knowledge of the artisan baking community.
Saskatoon’s Star Female Baker
Tracey doesn’t brag, but a Google search quickly informed me that Saskatoon can be proud to have an award-winning baker practising her craft in our community. Tracey competed with Team Canada at the 2007 Louis Lesaffre Cup, winning a silver medal in this international competition.
Tracey talks about her role models on the Bakers Journal: “I grew up in my family bakery, so I never thought much about being a female baker. But between the long hours and the physical nature of the job, the world of professional baking has commonly been dominated by men. It was because of the great success of several women in the industry, that I chose to really pursue my own baking career. My mother worked side-by-side with my father for over 40 years to create a successful business. Linda Haynes of Ace Bakery, Nancy Silverton of La Brea Breads, and Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread were all inspirations to me. These days, in bakeries across North America, women are working shoulder-to-shoulder with men, and performing well. At the international competition level, however, women are still a minority – their quantity is low, but their quality is high!”
The Bakers Journal also offers a recipe for patriotic Maple Granola Bread that Tracey created for a Louis Lesaffre Cup competition.
Tracey’s interest in artisan bread led her to Neapolitan pizza baked in a wood oven (this video - see below - explains what’s involved). “I’m pretty fascinated with the simplicity of the pizza, and yet it’s still so good,” Tracey says. “I’m learning a lot about wood and about fire. It’s really high maintenance because it cooks so fast – about 90 seconds at 800-900 degrees.”
Tracey says she’s still a novice and can only manage 2 pizzas at a time. She hopes to eventually be able to cook 3 or 4 at a time. “I’m challenging myself to get faster,” she says. It goes faster when her brother or her mother are working with her.
All in the Family
Janet and Ennio Muzzolini are stepping back from the business, while Tracey and Blair step forward. But they are still very active. Janet does the books, and Ennio will be in to help with the Christmas baking. Tracey and Blair sound like a comfortable team and appreciate each other’s strengths. Tracey says that Blair is a “super computer genius, a super brain.” (Thank you, Blair, for the great wifi at Il Secondo!)
Christie’s fruit cake is made using a 100-year old recipe from Ennio’s stint with the CN hotels. And Tracey promises to find time to make panettone for Christmas.
Customers had often asked for a second Christie’s location on Saskatoon’s east side. When the current location became available, it seemed like the time was right. The bread and pastries continue to be made at the 33rd Street location. Il Secondo offers the full line of baking, but it also has more seating, giving it a comfortable café feel. It is fascinating to watch Tracey baking pizzas in the wood oven, and the bakery is already a popular place for coffee, lunch or a visit with friends.