This post is in memory of an amazing man, I was just a customer but he let me be his friend; his wonderful cooking, his passion for healthy food that meant he followed his heart to create Walla Artisan Bakery and Cafe. Ben Manea would be there at 3 in the morning to begin, working 12 hour days. Walla was Penticton’s treasure of taste and quality food.
I loved going to the cafe and having his wonderful soups, always with his bread, and real butter and I would loiter to soak up the taste and experience. I loved being welcomed by Ben each time, and left each time feeling full and mentally refreshed. Moments I will miss in the future.
I hope you will enjoy this post in honor of Ben, it’s difficult to explain what a difference he made to so many in Penticton and in the area because of who he was, how he lived, and his food creations. – Dave
Ben Manea was born in Romania and raised in Israel. He emigrated to Toronto in 1999 where he met his wife Sharon, moving with her to the Okanagan in 2005.
Like his father, He had always loved working with his hands: for 6 years he maintained the fighter jets in the Israeli Air Force, then he worked in the technology sector, and finally owned a printing and packaging business.
When Ben and Sharon moved to the Okanagan, he realized he missed chewing on a good, crusty, crunchy bread with a soft, open and airy crumb inside that would be tasty enough to be eaten all by itself. Since he couldn’t find such a loaf anywhere in Penticton, so he set out to see if he could make such for himself, and his passion for baking was born.
He chose to leave his technical career behind and follow his passion for excellent baking and food, teaching himself old-school artisan bread baking and cooking so he could bring the flavours of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods to his new home in the South Okanagan.
He set upon a 12-year quest to create something that everyone loved but that not all could enjoy: a flavorful bread with a crusty loaf that could easily be digested by all bread lovers, including celiacs, diabetics, etc.
Bread that improved people’s lives one bite at a time.
Ben passed away on June 15, 2019 due to complications from ALS. He was working at the bakery right up until his passing. Walla opened in 2007 and closed permanently on June 22, 2019.
His wife Sharon shared Ben Manea’s final blog post, something he had been working on before he passed:
“I embraced every obstacle and mountain as a challenge to overcome, and every failure a lesson to be learned. This was one of the few times in my life when rogue and unchecked instincts directed me towards something that defied logic (baking bread) and seemed like sheer madness to others. I ignored everything, every voice of reason, and just went for it.
And in doing so he built a successful business over the past 12 years with bread that “improved people’s lives one bite at a time”.
Words of wisdom about LIFE from Ben:
Yet we should not be afraid of death, just of a life unlived and dreams unfulfilled. When life gives you a challenge, go ahead: dare to charge with gusto and abandon, and harness the courage to follow your instincts. Otherwise, forever you will be doomed to shed tears for lost opportunities and possibilities while longing for something that is no longer there except for vestiges of the past. It is not about the length of life, but the depth of it you are willing to explore challenging your “safety and comfort zone”, and remember that only those who live deeply do not fear death.
(I think this was his favorite saying) But, hey what do I know; after all, I’m just a baker!
What Ben said about being diagnosed with ALS:
“It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future. Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain.
So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?” – Ben, June 9, 2019.
Click here for a short youtube about Ben, his amazing bread and his Walla Artisan Bakery and Café.
If you are interested to learn more, and see more pictures of his food and learn more about Ben’s life, please Click Here.