“Its been a slice, Tony”

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Cigi’s Head of Baking Technology is hanging up his oven mitts and easing into retirement this May after working at Cigi since it began 40 years ago.

Tony Tweed has shared his technical expertise with generations of customers of Canadian grain at home and abroad, establishing a name for himself and a reputation for Cigi worldwide. Although reluctant to sing his own praises when asked about his career and how he set up Cigi’s baking technology area in 1973, he confesses to having plenty of interesting or funny stories about his travels to more than 40 countries and connecting with literally thousands of people from many cultures at home and abroad. Tony discussed some recollections about Cigi in years past, his career highlights, plans for retirement, and how he “truly can’t believe how quickly the years have passed.”

Tony says he is retiring now because “it’s time,” joking that he is motivated by the desire for a second cup of coffee he never has time to pour before heading off to work in the mornings. “You ask anybody my age and they say where did the years go?,” he says. “It’s just unbelievable, not just at work, but with your family when you have children. They’re that old, how is that possible?”

The seeds of Tony’s future at Cigi were planted as a youngster in a village near Cambridge, England where he worked after school cleaning bread pans for a local baker who convinced him to take on baking as a trade. He then pursued four years of study in breadmaking and flour confectionery at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. After graduation in 1962 Tony remained in Cambridge working in research and development for the central research centre of a milling and baking conglomerate. He soon decided he didn’t want to remain for long in a junior position at a large corporation and answered an advertisement in a trade publication for a job in Canada. Then, at only age 21, he was hired to take on the challenge of starting up a large baking school.

“I was recruited to establish the baking school at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta, to set up apprenticeship and Diploma training programs,” Tony says, “I also took teacher training for six months, which I think has matched the role here at Cigi to a degree – baking and teaching. They were recruiting people from all these industries as they didn’t have instructors trained in those areas in Canada. So when I came to Edmonton there were a large group of us from the U.K. ”

Cigi opportunity comes knocking

Tony says that he successfully started up NAIT’s bakery program but after about eight years the job became routine. “It’s interesting how it all came together, because there was a two-year position with CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) at that time in Peru. I accepted it, quit at NAIT, then found out my wife Betty was pregnant. And she said, well, I don’t want to have the baby in Peru. So I was out of a job and by coincidence Dr. Walter Bushuk who was in on the selection committee at CIDA was just seconded from the University of Manitoba to establish the technology areas at Cigi and needed a baker.  So he said, ‘well, I know a guy who is available’.”

In 1973 Tony was hired to start up Cigi’s pilot bakery. Commercial-scale equipment was installed and the bakery was ready for Cigi’s first six-week International Grain Industry program in the fall.

“There was obviously no internet, no fax,” he says. “If you wanted to make an overseas phone call you had to plan it as it was very expensive and you probably had to book it in advance. International communication was very limited so the participants we brought in during the early years knew virtually nothing about the Canadian grain industry. There was so much more basic information to give them. That’s why the programs were so long and they proved to be very successful.”

Early recollections

Tony recalls that Cigi’s very first program was a lecture-based Farm Leaders Course held at the Fort Garry Hotel in March 1973, before Cigi had classrooms or facilities in place. Most of the Cigi staff were seconded from other organizations including Vic Martens, Cigi’s first Executive Director, who came from the Canadian Grain Commission; and Dr. Walter Bushuk, Director of Technology, from the University of Manitoba, as well as two technologists and a grain inspector from the CGC. However, Tony had left his previous job as had the new miller Alf Panter who had relocated from his position at Ogilvie Mills in Montreal.

“We were at the closing dinner and Lem Shuttleworth, who was the chairman of our board and a commissioner at the CGC, stood up in front of the large group of participants, resource people and staff to give an address and said ‘well, as everybody understands, the concept of the institute is new and it’s a bit of an experiment, and if it doesn’t work out we can all go back to our old jobs,’ ” Tony recalls, laughing.  “Alf Panter and I looked at each other and I said ‘Alf, can you go back to your old job?’ and he said ‘no’ and I said ‘I can’t go back to mine either’. So it’s a good thing the concept did work. As they say, the rest is history. I’ll always remember that.

“Cigi was a totally new concept,” he says. “There was nothing in the U.S. or Australia like it. It was totally the brainchild of the principals at the CWB and CGC at the time.”

A year after joining Cigi, Tony travelled on his first mission overseas. “The first mission I went on was with Jean Tambay from the CWB, the first Canadian wheat mission to the whole of the Middle East and North Africa,” he says. “We started over in Iran and worked our way across Syria and Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, the whole circuit, the two of us. I think it was for six weeks. And that’s when we got caught up in the Syrian-Lebanese conflict, right in the middle of it between Baghdad and Damascus, and got stranded there and couldn’t get out. We lived in a hotel lobby for several days.”

Tony estimates he has visited some 40-plus countries on technical missions, some many times over, verified by the number of charms he bought for his three daughters’ charm bracelets on each trip. The international baking knowledge he acquired made him one of the most prominent experts on baking processes throughout the world.

Despite his travels and related adventures, Tony says he has grown to prefer hosting participants within Canada. “Travel means different things to different people at different times in your life. When you are fairly young and energetic and travelling to countries for the first time, it’s work but it’s also a huge experience. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity. But I really have also enjoyed hosting because you’re a Canadian and proud of Canada. Participants get to experience what a good place it is as well as learn about our wheat.”

Tony says the time spent entertaining people from other countries has been invaluable. “People will say they remember that barbecue in your backyard, like 30 years later, more than any lecture. Once we had about 15 Cubans here on a two-week baking program over to our house for a barbecue. We didn’t really appreciate how little they had in their daily lives at that time. They love playing chess so we set up chess boards in the yard and invited the neighbours. There were things that fascinated them like the kids’ bikes, which they didn’t have as they couldn’t afford them, so they were all out riding bicycles in the neighbourhood. They were also amazed at the North American and Japanese cars which we took for granted and they were under the hood checking them out and taking them (illegally) for a spin around the block.”

 He reflects on the many changes he has seen at Cigi and with the grain industry, saying that more change can only be expected. “I’m not much of an advisor but I think the thing everybody has to understand, and I have seen it, is that the grain industry is always going to be changing. Go back over the last 40 years when we started Cigi and start ticking off all the major changes. The industry always will and so will people’s jobs. Staff at Cigi can expect to be doing something very different in the future.”

The favourite part of his career has been the continuous learning, Tony says, and that he will miss working with participants, industry people, and Cigi staff. But he doesn’t plan to sit still in retirement. One major activity he will continue is working with thoroughbred horses that he has co-owned for the past eight years with races upcoming in Winnipeg and Saskatoon.

“I still have family in the U.K. so may spend more time visiting them and of course with my family here,” he says. “I have lots of hobbies and interests; may find some volunteer work, would like to play a lot more golf and will carry on with the race horses.”

It indeed has been quite a ride.

Sidebar:

Hiatus added to Tony’s industry experience

In 1984 Tony took a four-year hiatus from Cigi to work for Woodstone Foods, then a new high-technology emerging company located west of Winnipeg, as Manager of Technical Services.

The company was embarking on its first venture as an ingredient supplier of dietary fibre, starch and protein to the baking industry. Tony’s job was to help bakery product manufacturers develop formulas incorporating Woodstone’s unique ingredients into new products.

“Everything I did was on the ground floor,” he says. “I went to Edmonton where they had just finished building NAIT, and came here to Cigi and they were just finishing building it, then Woodstone Foods which was new and cutting edge at the time, working with value-added ingredients.”

However, he says after a few years at Woodstone Foods he had achieved what he was hired to do and wasn’t interested in moving into a sales oriented position. During this time Tony had remained as a resource person at Cigi and as good timing would have it, he was invited back as Director of Food Technology in 1988.

Article originally published in Cigi.ca e-publication, Spring 2012.