Laperle et son boulanger breads

Laperle et son boulanger: a social-militant creating alchemy in bread

Laperle et son boulanger boutiqueBernard Bélanger never really intended to make bread. At least not at the beginning. He studied hotel management, along with business and human resources. With his focus “sociale mililtante”, Bernard traveled to Guatamala in the mid-1990’s at the end of the country’s civil war, to help the Mayas move back to their lands from their place of exile in Mexico. He spent six months there. At the time, the Mayas told him, “Your mission is not here.” He went back to Canada, continued to help them from afar, and then moved on to other pursuits.

Bernard Bélanger

Bernard Bélanger holding the mighty Kamataki sourdough loaf

Then one day, he ate some bread. Some really good bread. With his curiosity aroused, he asked how it was done. It was a sourdough bread and he wanted to know how to do it himself. Not as easy as it sounds, it took him awhile to find a boulangerie that would train him in making sourdough. One year later, his curiosity had become his passion, and he opened his first bakery, the Atelier de Boulangerie de l’est, Inc.

For six years he made sourdough breads exclusively. He made several types (many of which you see at his shop today), including the multi-grain, and the Kamataki (named after a Quebecois film by Claude Gagnon) – a very large and meaty sourdough (love that one!).

There was no storefront. His bread was sold to clients with drop-off points, or at farms and co-ops.

With changes in his life, he closed the bakery and went on a trip to France with his son, Raphael. He even gave workshops on working with sourdough there, as it was becoming a lost art across the Atlantic.

multigrain Laperle et son boulangerIf you’ve ever been to France, then you may have had the joyous experience of one of their transport strikes. A transport strike can be “interesting” on the best of days and freeze up the entire country on the worst. When the train suddenly came to a stop at Fréjus-Saint-Raphael and didn’t leave again, Bernard and Raphael simply went with the flow. They figured that they were in the right place with the town sharing Raphael’s name.

Upon his return, Bernard was looking for a place to continue perfecting his alchemy in bread-making. In that elegant beauty of life’s synchronistic events, Bernard came across a café in Verdun: Café Fréjus-Saint-Raphael. And there he once again began making his breads in the back, and selling some through the café.

After awhile, the café could no longer contain Bernard’s dreams and passion, and he started searching for a place to open his own bakery with a storefront. Around this time he also met Julie Laperle who was a working for one of the local market gardeners. They partnered up and together they found Laperle et son Boulanger.

Kamataki Laperle et son boulanger Looking back, he realized that he knew when he started making bread, it was what the Mayas had meant. This was his mission. It was his way of preserving tradition, working in a way that preserves the environment and respecting everyone’s social structure. He is not pillaging someone else’s land in order to reap their crops for his gain. He finds it a privilege to be able to live from his bread. It’s a way to walk the walk of social and spiritual justice, and fighting a peaceful fight.

Julie Laperle

Julie Laperle in their boutique “Laperle et son boulanger”

Although his breads are not certified organic, he does use organic ingredients. The boulangerie in Dunham grows its own wheat on some land behind the boulangerie. The flour that is produced is what is used for the desserts and pies that Julie makes. In the future they hope to grow red fife – a rustic Canadian heritage wheat (actually the first wheat to be named in Canada). Their goal is to continually strive toward authenticity. Local. Sustainable. Fair-trade. It is his “socially militant” colors coming through, yet transformed, having found their voice through bread.

So what’s so special about sourdough? “Sourdough is alive. It has its good days and bad ones.” Commercial bread, in order for it to be uniform in appearance, uses a flour that has all the nutrients taken out. Some may be added back later, as well as some commercial yeast, but everything is tightly controlled. With sourdough, the bread has its own personality, growing, transforming, evolving with food and air. The yeast converts the fermentable sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide, which causes the bread to rise.

Laperle et son boulanger breadsAlthough I didn’t discuss the health benefits of sourdough bread with Bernard, it’s true that sourdough bread is the healthiest bread you can eat, sourdough rye being the king of them all. It predigests the starches, it breaks down the gluten as well, also making it more digestible, it keeps your blood glucose levels lower after eating, and it breaks down phytates (which block the uptake of critical minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc) more than a regular yeast bread. (Here is an article from the University of Guelph, and another from the blog Real Food Forager with more on that subject.)

Since November of last year, Bernard has passed the baton to a new baker, while he continues to supervise and search for new products and ingredients, while remaining in harmony with his values.

I asked him if bread still holds surprises for him. “Always” The way it smells or reacts. It is a living thing. “It’s like a small child. You gotta talk to your sourdough.”

Laperle et son boulangerMy last question was, “what’s with the pig?” Bernard and Julie smile. They are both born in the year of the pig, and the year they launched their bakery in Dunham was… the year of the pig.

You can find Laperle et son Boulanger at the Sainte-Anne’s market on Saturdays.


On researching the Mayas and their land, I found this article from the Guardian. I was quite disturbed to find that it dated 2011 as it told of Mayan peoples who are to this day being displaced so big conglomerates could farm their lands, this time for biofuels for Europeans.

This post is also available in: French

Posted in Bakery.

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