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Cinnamon buns talk of the town in Inuvik

Kira Curtis
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 7, 2011

INUVIK - Each morning as Inuvik sleeps, Juan Bidegain creates tasty treats. At 5 a.m. the Uruguayan-born baker fires up the kitchen of Cafe Gallery, and it's not long before the comforting aroma of homemade bread begins to spill out of the oven and drift through the cafe.

This travelled pastry handler has created such a following of hungry townsfolk the eatery goes through dozens of cinnamon buns, baskets of muffins and more than 100 freshly-made sandwiches squished between Bidegain's bread.

But at first baking was just a job like any other for Bidegain.

While helping out a friend in a bakery in his hometown of Libertad, Uruguay, Bidegain ended up landing a night shift, cleaning trays and doing odds-and-ends jobs until he learned the tricks of baking a good loaf.

"I liked the money; I didn't like baking," he said. "I hated being awake all night."

But after working in New Zealand as a baker, then travelling to Canada, the art of baking has grown on Bidegain. Bidegain moved here full time last October.

"I love it. It changes every day," Bidegain said as he spread icing onto a hot batch of cinnamon buns. "Every day we have the same amount of sales, but every day we sell something different. So we try to provide as much variety as we can."

There's always the staple items in the morning display case - muffins, cinnamon buns and sandwiches - but understanding what little variety Inuvik residents have to satisfy daily cravings, Bidegain switches it up as best he can.

"I see what I have and create based on that; I don't do it the other way around," he said.

Relying on specific supplies this far north can be a let down, so being resourceful is an asset.

He added, "We have been trying to do sushi, and for the last four weeks there is no seaweed in town," so he found a friend to mail a package of seaweed up.

Feeding around 200 people a day, some repeats, with artisan delicacies is no mean feat and luckily for Bidegain, he has the help of Debbie Karl. While he kneads away on the sticky sweets and savoury sausage rolls, Debbie's experience in the north helps the kitchen remain stocked.

"Now that the road is open it's not too bad, but Debbie is the one that deals with most of the ordering," said Bidegain. "I don't know what she does, but she gets it, which is great."

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