Toronto Oven Repair

Post date: Sep 28, 2015 6:49:15 PM

(excerpted from

July 12 2015

Jonathan White, a cheese maker and baker who lives on a farm an hour from NYC in New Jersey, had emailed us about our oven (his oven is also designed by Alan Scott). After some back-and-forth on email, he took a Porter flight from Newark and came to visit. He took a close look at both ovens and said he intends to come back on September 14 to repair the little oven hearth and door, in memory of his friend Michèle Cherrington.

Jonathan said he had some concerns about the bigger oven's dome as well, but some of us feel that this is not the time for CELOS to undertake major oven repairs -- too much uncertainty about recreation staffing of oven programs.

Jonathan White at Dufferin Grove

Hearth repair day, Sept.14 2015

Jonathan White and his wife Nina flew up from New Jersey to make the oven repair happen. Jonathan and Mike Conway (from CELOS) started work at 9 a.m., getting all the tools together. Park baker Heidrun Gabel-Koepff spent most of the day as well, including climbing right in the oven (photo below) to vacuum out some of the dust.

Jonathan and Nina own the "Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse" on their farm in western New Jersey, about an hour and ten minutes from New York City. They participate in many markets in NYC as well as having events at their farm. They have over a hundred milk cows. Jonathan does the dairy and Nina does the baking, in an Alan Scott oven not much different than the big oven at Dufferin Grove.

Jonathan came across the Dufferin Grove ovens on this website. He decided to help fix the smaller oven hearth to honour the memory of a friend of his youth from Toronto, Michèle Cherrington.

Jonathan White and his wife Nina, Bobolink Dairy

August 18 2015 -- hearth worse every day

The bricks came out easily. There was a lot of ash underneath, which Nina and Jonathan both felt might be the result of too much water use when mopping out the oven -- driving the ash right under the bricks.

starting the hearth-brick removal


There were a lot of eroded bricks but Heidrun's count beforehand was correct -- we even had a few extra new bricks left over. Once the bricks were out, the bed of fire clay underneath was solid and level. One could still see Alan Scott's parging marks, from 15 years ago.

fire-clay bed from 2000 still excellent

a lot of eroded or cracked bricks!

Heidrun got into the oven and vacuumed out the rest of the ash at the back. Meantime, as more visitors from other public ovens came to see the repair work, Mike took the time to repair a market bench that had been partly broken for a long time.

Jonathan had spent time beforehand thinking about how to level the fire clay under the new bricks, so that the hearth would be level. But it turned out not to be a problem -- the fire clay from when the oven was built had hardened over time and the bricks sat level.

Park friend Pete Gaffney lent his masonry saw, so Mike was able to cut the final bricks to the right size for the front of the hearth under the door frame.

The bakers from other public ovens who came by to watch, and catch up on oven issues over lunch: Dale Howey and Tania Davidson from Montgomery Inn oven, Zahrah Munas from Regent Park oven, Leah Houston from (former) Mabelle oven, and Gene Threndyle, from the Artscape oven at Queen and Crawford.

brave baker Heidrun gets right in to vacuum out ash

new bricks are level with no problems

Mike puts in sawed bricks under the door frame

repair assistant Mike fixes a broken park bench

Jonathan readies the refractory cement

visiting bakers had lots to talk about

The final step was replacing the broken upright brick by the oven door, fastening it in with refractory cement. That's the end of the heat leak. Now the cement has to cure for a day, and then the oven is ready for use again.

At 6 pm, friends and family of Michèle Cherrington, in whose honour Jonathan worked on the oven, came over to the park and later to the CELOS house, to celebrate over Bobolink cheese and bread and Portuguese wine, also provided by Nina and Jonathan. A very good day!

replacement all done, like new

Jonathan and Nina are pleased, and no wonder