MILLBROOK – With an enduring passion for baking and an unwavering commitment to community cooking, the chef of one of Millbrook’s greatest restaurants mixes new ideas with old ambitions to keep his labor of love on track during the pandemic.
Colin Hall, co-owner and executive chef of Pastry Peddler, began offering hot pastries and coffee to customers at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market in 2010.
As popular demand increased, Hall and his co-owner Deanna Bell quickly moved to a brick and mortar location. The duo’s big dreams called for a bigger venue, and six years ago the operation moved across the street to its current location on King Street East.
An avid cyclist, Hall has combined his two loves in the business: cycling and baking.
Serving Danish and latte, Pastry Peddler – operating in a historic building dating back to the 1870s – was a quaint and comfortable stop for riders passing through Millbrook’s picturesque borders.
With the help of mechanic Eric Freeman-Roth, Hall and Bell opened a bicycle shop inside the restaurant, and Pastry Peddler became a destination in its own right. The in-house bike shop closed before COVID, but the thriving community center has retained its cyclist-centric look and feel – customers can still leave their bikes on a nearby bike rack while grabbing some ready-made food to work.
With each new addition to the store’s ever-expanding menu, which features locally harvested ingredients, Pastry Peddler has grown, winning fans in town and abroad.
Then the pandemic struck.
Pastry Peddler was forced to close his doors to eat inside. The stress increased as the numbers dwindled, Hall recalls.
“It was hard for everyone, the stress exploded,” he said.
But the difficult new realities haven’t stopped Hall and co. to continue in the face of the pandemic. Now more than ever, the Stratford Chefs School graduate is learning from his long-standing passion for food and the community to walk, and it is paying off.
After doubling down on pre-existing take-out options to get by, he and Hall opened a 12-seat patio about three weeks ago as some health restrictions were reduced.
The patio itself is a reflection of the kind of community collaboration that made Pastry Peddler a success in the first place. It was built by a carpentry class at Crestwood High School, and the owner of Millbrook’s Valley Shoppe decorated the outdoor dining room with planters and flower arrangements. Hall said the patio has been well received by regulars and newcomers.
“People are coming. On a good sunny day, our terrace is pretty much packed. They come to have a bite, a coffee, a beer or just to relax, ”said Hall.
During the lockdown, Pastry Peddler offered family meal offers to customers, a way for residents to safely grab a treat while avoiding the pandemic-induced commotion at home.
Business in the COVID age has been hectic and ever-changing. But for Hall, that’s the essence of community-driven fine food delivery.
“I kind of think of being in the kitchen like a dance in some ways. Sometimes it’s a crazy dance, like a punk rock concert. But other times there’s an elegance, ”Hall said.
“Being a chef isn’t just about wearing the hat and the jacket and creating good food, it’s about getting to know your customers, your staff and your strengths, your weaknesses. It is about recognizing that you are not going to be for everyone and that you are not going to make everyone happy but that you are going to do the best you can. At Pastry Peddler, that’s what we’ve tried to achieve, ”continued Hall.
“I am really proud of our city. Millbrook needed us and we needed Millbrook.
Over the past few years, an initiative led by Kawartha Tourism and Shimano Canada has developed and maintained a handful of cycle routes, with varying degrees of difficulty, in and around Peterborough.
The Shimano Gran Fondo route, a 150 kilometer trail, takes cyclists from Peterborough through scenic hills and winding roads to Millbrook, where the famous “Pastry Peddler” is listed as a checkpoint – a place for cyclists to catch their breath while having a cup of java or hot meal.