Ox The Baker brings ‘real bread’ to South Melbourne
Ox Noonan, better known as Ox the Baker, is a man of many skills. Boat builder, beekeeper, and Adjunct Research Associate are just some of the titles that make an appearance on what is a fairly imposing CV. Ox has earned an impressive reputation for his talent and passion for hand baked, long-fermented, naturally leavened sourdough, just as his family taught him to make as a young boy. Fortunately Melbourne bread lovers will soon be able to take home some of Ox’s famous loaves for themselves, with the doors of his latest venture ‘Ox the Baker’ opening June 17th.
Ox the Baker is a new bakery with an old-school sensibility, serving up traditional style sourdough and baked goods from the suitably historic Emerald Hill Terrace in South Melbourne. Mentored by and in collaboration with St Ali’s Salvatore Malatesta, Ox aims to educate customers on the beauty of bread made simple.
Ox’s approach to baking adheres to the ‘real bread’ philosophy, which revolves around the simple formula of water, flour, salt, time and leaven (in this case, leaven dating back to the 1800s). “I make real bread without the crap, which means no commercial yeast, no semi-sourdough or hybrid wannabe bread, no preservatives, fillers or ascorbic acid. Just good old fashioned bread.” In an effort to produce sustainable and low-mileage food, Ox uses organic ingredients sourced mainly from local suppliers, including sultanas and muscatels from Sultana Girl in the Mallee, walnuts from the Otways, butters from King Valley, and Grampians olives.
Underpinning Ox’s baking practice is his work as a baking researcher, where he is involved in a joint University research project on the digestibility of grain protein, specifically wheat proteins. This scientific curiosity has fuelled his belief that the best product is a result of “working with nature, not against it” which, as he explains, is how bread has been made for thousands of years. “What I’m doing here is nothing new. It’s an evolution built on the skills and knowledge of those who came before me, it honours their techniques and carries on the tradition of real bread that is actually healthy for you.”
Family and tradition both play a big role in Ox’s work and daily life. He attributes his lifelong passion for baking to his great uncle who was a well-respected baker in Carlton, and his grandfather, a fisherman and a baker in the off-season. For six generations, his family has resided around Port Phillip Bay, including his great-great grandfather who was one of the original residents of Port Melbourne. The opening of his bakery on Clarendon Street signals a homecoming of sorts for Ox, who had also previously spent many years selling his baked goods at the South Melbourne market.
Working within predictably challenging building restrictions, Ox has carefully hand restored and preserved many features of the heritage listed building, including the original 130-year-old timber façade and raw brick walls. Aside from Ox’s signature range of hand crafted long-fermented sourdough bread, visitors can also expect old-fashioned pies, sausage rolls and other baked goods on offer, as well as a custom Italian style coffee blend run through a Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine.
With the first round of test baking and ‘wet chemistry’ analysis soon to be underway, we can expect the smell of Ox’s freshly baked sourdough drifting down Clarendon Street any day now! In the meantime, you can follow Ox the Baker’s progress over on instagram at @oxthebaker.
Ox the Baker – Opening June 17th, 2017
356 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne