By Richard Bell
Paul Nicholl, the owner of Dobbit Bakehouse in Musquodoboit Harbour, has won this year’s “Jake the Baker” competition, a national contest sponsored by Bakers Journal, the country’s leading industry trade magazine. The journal cited Nicholl’s “community involvement in a wide range of mentorship programs,” and his participation in raising funds “for various local fundraising campaigns.”
“Jake the Baker” is the name of the legendary cartoon baker who has graced the pages of Bakers Journal for the last 36 years, a creation of cartoonist Brian Fray.
For this year’s 4thannual contest, the magazine and its contest sponsors asked entrants to answer a simple question: “How do you serve your community?” For every entry, the Journal and its principle sponsor, Ardent Mills, donated $50 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
As the winner of this year’s contest, Nicholl got a trip to the Bakery Showcase convention in Toronto to accept the award, and the journal featured him on the cover of its June issue.
Nicholl is a graduate of NSCC, and employs students in programs at both Eastern Shore District High School and NSCC. “For many students, I’m a different form of adult than they’re used to dealing with,” Nicholl explained. “I’m not a teacher, and I’m not a parent. I know that there may be rough spots, sometimes a few teary days, but I try to help them get through and learn some good life lessons.”
Nicholl’s early experiences in the business left him determined to show his students all aspects of running a small bakery. When he graduated from NSCC, “I was assigned to a baker at a big commercial operation,” Nicholl explained. “All I did, sometimes for more than 12 hours a day, was shape loaves of bread. I asked to see other parts of the business, but they said no.”
Nicholl got involved in the first year of the O2 (Options and Opportunities) program at Eastern Shore District High School. “The O2 program is for kids who are not so inclined academically, more trades inclined,” Nicholl said. “Students pick three trades they’re interested in, and have to get 100 hours of experience in each of those trades. At the end of the 100 hours, each employer writes a review. And if the review is good, a student can go right into studying that trade at NSCC.”
Nicholl also works closely with students in NSCC’s Boulanger baking program. Students spent 5 weeks at the bakery. “The first week is breaking in, getting the lay of the land,” Nicholl said. “The second week, they research our current products, and by the end of week 3, they come up with a pitch for a new product to add to our menu. In week 4, they bake up the prototype, and in week 5, we try the finished product out on customers.”