Yukon News

Beloved Whitehorse baker kneads some time for himself

Pierre Chauvin Friday December 9, 2016

Joel Krahn/Yukon News


Suat Tuzlak, owner of Alpine Bakery, spreads filling during a strudel-making session Sunday. Tuzlak will retire Jan. 1 and hand the reins of the business to two trusted friends.

In August 2015, Suat Tuzlak, then the owner of the Alpine Bakery, asked a couple he knew in Germany to post ads in local newspapers.

He was looking to sell the very business he started 32 years ago.

“Maybe that won’t be necessary,” they told him. “We will take over.”

Come Jan. 1, Silvia and Walter Streit will be the new owners of the iconic bakery.

Tuzlak is quick to point out that he sold his business to trusted friends. The quality and variety of products the bakery is known for, he said, won’t change.

“They are the best candidates one can imagine,” Tuzlak said. “They know (the) bakery, they love Yukon, share similar values, work ethic.”

Walter first visited the Yukon in 2001. He came back regularly after that, and in 2004 he started visiting with his wife Silvia. They met Tuzlak and became friends — Tuzlak even attended their wedding in Germany.

When Tuzlak put the Alpine Bakery up for sale, the couple had been thinking it was time for a change.

A civil engineer by trade, Walter found the pace of life in big cities too fast for his liking.

So the couple has moved to the Yukon for good.

“Germany is not my home anymore,” said Silvia, “I (only) go there for visiting family.”

In Germany, Walter owned a consulting company, working on bridges and tunnels. Silvia was in charge of bookkeeping.

Now the roles have changed: Silvia will be the head baker, and Walter will take care of the business side of the bakery.

“Now she is the boss,” said Walter.

* * *

For Tuzlak it was a relief the couple offered to buy the bakery. He was concerned prospective buyers might turn his cherished business into a bar or a “steak restaurant.”

“Walter has experience as a previous business owner,” Tuzlak said. “It’s a big asset.”

Silvia, for her part, had already worked for a time at the bakery and has been baking bread there since September.

“I am amazed how good a baker in the meantime Silvia became without formal education,” Tuzlak said, “just with enthusiasm, dedication and interest.”

And if there is one person who knows that previous experience isn’t a requirement to start a bakery, it is Tuzlak himself.

He was born in Turkey but moved to Germany, before going to Alberta where he worked in the oil patch in the 1970s.

An environmentalist at heart, Tuzlak wasn’t comfortable with the industry.

In the 1980s he moved to Whitehorse and started the Alpine Bakery, first in a small building next to Antoinette’s, and for the past 25 years in the well-known wooden lodge at 5th Avenue and Alexander St.

The bakery offers organic sourdough bread, baked goods, and lunches. When Tuzlak moved to the Yukon, organic food was almost unheard of.

“It was not easy to get established,” he said. “On the other hand Whitehorse was and still is a good, open-minded place.”

The bakery, he recognizes, was a “big gamble.”

He had no professional experience but used to bake bread for friends and neighbours.

“It was a tough start but Whitehorse was the right place.”

At the time, California witnessed the rise of a small movement led by artisanal bakers making sourdough bread.

“I knew some of those people,” he said. “If there was any kind of training, I visited some small bakeries in California. It was helpful.”

He is proud of the business he’s built — offering not just bread but also organic vegetables through the “produce club” that features locally grown veggies in the summer months.

At the bakery, he mills his own grain shipped from Saskatchewan.

And all of the breads are varieties of sourdough, made from the fermented mix of flour and water that was popular during the Gold Rush.

“Bread turns out much better, tastes better,” he said. “And the quality of sourdough bread is easier to digest and better for (the) system.”

Sourdough bread requires more time than regular bread made with commercial yeast — at the Alpine Bakery, sourdough bread is prepared every afternoon to be baked the following day.

With the new year only weeks away, that task will soon fall to Walter and Silvia, who are gearing up for the impending handover.

They’re planning some minor renovations for the building that will be done over Christmas. They want to be open on Mondays during the summertime because of tourists. And they want to expand the list of products the bakery sells, adding typical German cakes and a few different sorts of bread.

“We’ll keep the character of the business,” said Walter.

But he also wants to show Yukoners they’re in it for the long run. “Especially at the beginning, it’s necessary to show we’re trustworthy,” he said.

The couple plans to give one per cent of the bakery’s revenue to environmental non-profits.

“It’s not just talking,” he said.

* * *

These days Tuzlak only bakes on occasion.

“I don’t have that luxury anymore of putting my hands in the dough because of other aspects of the business,” he said.

He is excited for his retirement — and he has big plans.

“I’m getting ready for the 2024 Olympic Games,” he said.

This is a joke, because every second person on the street asks him about his next plans. But what he is most looking forward to is having more time to hike, ski, bike and swim.

When he was the bakery’s head baker, he woke up every day at 4 a.m. and baked enough bread to go through 1,000 kilos of flour every week. Yet he made sure to keep a healthy lifestyle, swimming, doing yoga, and napping.

“My day goes better if I have all three of them,” he said.

Tuzlak is now in his seventies and baking has kept him in good shape.

“Kneading dough is good for body, mind and spirit,” he said.

With that, Tuzlak must cut the interview short — he still has a bakery to run, after all.

But he says he isn’t going to leave the territory.

“The Yukon is my home.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


JustAGuy wrote:
9:58pm Thursday December 22, 2016

Thank You for your many years of service , it won’t be the same without you. I’ll buy you the best dinner that we can find . See you Monday

Pat McKenna wrote:
7:02pm Friday December 16, 2016

Congratulations and best wishes Suat, as you retire from the busy-ness and your business.  Your kindness and generosity has been an example to us all.  Suat donated bread to our annual Chili-and-Bean Canoe/Kayak Race for many years.  Maybe he will have time to come paddle with us now?  Thank you, most sincerely for the gift from your heart and hands to so many of us over the years.

Mike Grieco wrote:
11:22pm Tuesday December 13, 2016

Suat Tuzlak is a humble, generous and caring man. Many thanks for your kindness, Suat. I’m sure that Silvia and Walter Streit will continue the Alpine Bakery tradition. All the best!

Criticize not wrote:
5:37pm Tuesday December 13, 2016

Proscience Greenie, you are anything but green if you think steak restaurants are great. We have enough of those type of restaurants in town, so a vegetarian artesian style food does not need to be another Earl’s or Legends.  Meat is carcinogenic—Suat’s food always is healthy and good for you.
Suat uses high quality ingredients Mark—not sure why you feel the need to inquire about that in an article praising the man’s efforts to have an organic, high quality eatery in the north, where it is challenging/expensive to provide such a thing. I thank Suat for having this business for his clients to buy such great bread and organic food.

Mark wrote:
3:06pm Monday December 12, 2016

Are the grains Suat uses from a non-gmo farm?

Susan Despins wrote:
2:00pm Monday December 12, 2016

Suat,, I still remember all those years ago (early 90’s) when one Christmas Eve my dog Banjo went missing in a snow storm. You were shovelling your walkway at the bakery and low and behold a big heap of snow woke up in front of my store’s door (between you and Arthur) and it was Banjo! You brought him to Arthur and he kept him warm And fed with No Pop goodies until I could make it down to pick him up…..the good ole days!

AMAZING!!! wrote:
11:49am Monday December 12, 2016

My Aunt worked there for such a long time baking the breads.  She retired some time ago now too.  Hope you have a great retirement and enjoy more free time.  Thanks for all the years of GREAT breads and food.  Look forward to the new owners.

Hanne Hoefs wrote:
7:43pm Saturday December 10, 2016

Happy retirement Suat! Thank you for your delicious bread and all you did for the community!

Pat Berrel wrote:
4:57pm Saturday December 10, 2016

When I was principal of WES and running our breakfast program, Suat donated loaves of bread every day for our program. You re an inspiration to us all. All the best in your retirement.

Jean-François Latour wrote:
12:12am Saturday December 10, 2016

I have learned to make bread from Suat, in the evenings of winter 1991-1992, when the small bakery was still on 4th avenue. He generously shared all he knew about bread making. I am proud to say that I now share this knowledge (and my baked goods) with the residents of Arctic Bay, Nunavut. The sourdough here tastes wonderful. Thank you Suat and I wish you the best in your free time!

Anna Hausleitner wrote:
9:28pm Friday December 9, 2016

Glad to see the bakery not lost, best bread ever.  Happy retirement Suat and we hope you have ösome time to travel also, always welcome.

Vladimir wrote:
7:27pm Friday December 9, 2016

Hi Suat, You are an excellent baker and good man to work with also your bread is wonderful, some years ago (in 1992) my mother (Velinka) worked with you when you were just starting out, sadly suddenly she passed away in 1992. All the best and Good luck in your retirment

Trena Irving wrote:
5:39pm Friday December 9, 2016

Suat, I have loved your food, your bread and all that you offer at your bakery. I will miss seeing you there. You created a wonderful Yukon establishment that I’m sure will flourish for many years to come. Enjoy your retirement—-it’s well deserved.

ProScience Greenie wrote:
4:23pm Friday December 9, 2016

What’s wrong with a steak restaurant? Even better, a steak restaurant with good bread made onsite?

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