Alan Scott 1936-2009

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Photo: Art Rogers in the New York Times

When we wrote about Montreal's upcoming ban on wood stoves, we noted that brick ovens were exempted. This may not have been the best choice for local air quality, but it certainly was for the quality of the breads, bagels and pizzas available in the city. They all owe a debt to Alan Scott, as does anyone who loves good bread and supports creative, artisanal businesses.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Scott "took oven designs that were hundreds of years old and refined them," said Dick Bessey, who teaches oven-building at Kendall College in Chicago and at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Mr. Scott's drawings, he said, "allowed virtually anybody to build an oven that would perform in a way that would equal the old communal ovens."

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He was clearly interested not only in the art of making bread, but in the establishment of a business model that took bread away from the big corporate bakers and made small businesses more competitive, able to deliver a better, fresher product. According to the website of the company he founded:

Ovencrafters oven designs have been developed in the field over the last 25 years culminating in a type of oven that never existed before this. These oven constitute a radical departure in building technique and use that has made it possible for the first time for small rural based home and village bakeries to be viable and competitive with the industry at any level.

With the ongoing loss of middle class occupations throughout western societies, many with even moderate skills and capital can create an invaluable small business in their communities that will find ready support from them in return. Many are finding for the first time the joy of meaningful work in the bosom of their communities and free from the distant hidden grip of the corporate world at last.

Alan Scott, dead at 72. More in the New York Times
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