LA-marketer-turned-Montreal-baker Thea Bryson is giving her fermented rolls some extra room to breathe. The creator of online small-batch sourdough bakery Miette — operating up until recently out of Saint-Henri doughnut shop Léché Desserts — is putting the finishing touches on a space on De Lévis Street, just around the corner from Notre-Dame’s restaurant row, in Little Burgundy.
Though a Montreal native, Bryson had been living in Los Angeles until late 2019, working as a social media strategist at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. She describes West LA as having a “huge sourdough community,” and says, “It’s kind of just a California thing to do.” It’s something she herself got drawn into after a friend dropped off a blob of starter on her doorstep one afternoon, in 2018 — long before the quarantine baking craze.
“I just became super obsessed with it. I couldn’t stop reading books about it and building out schedules of how to make the bread around my work schedule,” Bryson says. “I always knew I wanted to pivot into the food industry and wasn’t sure how. Then I thought, ‘Maybe this is it ... I moved back to Montreal [to start Miette] and the rest is kind of history.”
At the new outpost for Miette, Montrealers will be able to sample Bryson’s low-intervention baking and the tang that carries through from the Los Angeles-”born” sourdough starter she affectionately calls Tina. There’ll be everything from marbled rye and olive-walnut loaves, to buns, baguettes, crackers, and focaccia — all naturally leavened.
“It’s none of that sliced Wonder Bread stuff. It’s fermented. It’s good for your gut,” she says, echoing the language popularized by her microbiome-minded former employer.
The drawn-out process of fermentation “breaks down the gluten and pre-digests it in a way,” Bryson explains, adding that those who are sensitive to the wheat protein will find her breads easier to digest than those made industrially with commercial quick-rising yeast. “That’s why we don’t create any gluten-free products. We’re very strong-willed about that,” she says.
That’s been Bryson’s philosophy since early 2020 when she started Miette out of her apartment, where she’d ferment and bake sourdough loaves to then distribute with the “old beat-up van” that her dad, the owner of Saint-Henri road bike shop Néron, uses for his own deliveries. Soon after, she entered a space-sharing agreement with Josie Weitzenbauer, the owner of Léché, where she then migrated her production, continued filling orders, and began selling her breads on the spot.
“That really allowed me to kind of take it to the next level,” Bryson says. Her creations have since also appeared on the menus of Sud-Ouest establishments like Pointe-Saint-Charles’ Café Bloom, recently opened Saint-Henri Italian restaurant BarBara, and Olive & Gourmando sibling Un Po’ Di Piu in Old Montreal.
Bryson knew early on that she wanted to branch out on her own but took her time settling a space. “I was very much adamant on not replicating that typical bakery model, where everyone is in a basement, working in a dark with neon lights. It becomes really depressing,” she says.
Instead, Miette’s production facility and storefront features 10-foot ceilings and plenty of windows that allow the natural light to pour in and passersby to stop and stare at the bread-making — all the mixing, shaping, and scoring — in process. The design brief, executed by her sister, Celia Bryson, was “essentially bread lab meets museum,” Bryson says.
Though on the verge of debuting her first brick-and-mortar, Bryson isn’t about to abandon her background in digital marketing nor the initial online underpinning of her business anytime soon. “The idea is to really blend the two,” she says.
Online orders placed on Miette’s website will carry on and eventually expand to include the option of a weekly bread subscription scheme. “When I was a kid, we used to get our milk and eggs regularly delivered, so why not do the same for bread?” she says. Delving into subscription and delivery is perhaps one more lesson Bryson brings from the Golden State, where that type of service is also catching on.
Miette is slated to open its doors at 317 rue de Lévis in the coming weeks, if all goes according to plan.