Zak the Baker: The Enigmatic Artisan Behind Miami's Most Sought-After Sourdough
|Zak Stern (center) and two apprentices at his Miami bakery|
But there's nothing insincere about his appearance, or his fervent dedication to the craft of sourdough bread. In fact, his bread has developed a mystical aura, attributed to a cloak of mystery that he intentionally maintains.
Stern was raised in Miami before he went on to study pharmacology. Midway through his studies, though, he found himself overcome with a yearning to create something with his hands, to make something that brought joy to others.
"What if people always did what makes them happy?" he questions, reflecting on the decision that led him to change paths. Stern then quit his studies and departed on a journey through Europe, apprenticing with numerous cheese makers and bakeries for about five years. He hopped around Italy and France, moving from one organic farm to the next.
In February 2012, Stern returned to Miami and began baking at home. He then opened a small spot with a single oven and starting taking in apprentices from Israel, Italy, and elsewhere abroad. He set up a work-trade bakery, where young bakers exchange food and board for the opportunity to learn the craft of true artisanal baking.
At his headquarters, bread is made completely by hand, and the process for a single loaf takes a total of 20 hours. Stern doesn't own a mixer. The bakery is not even open to the public.