Zak the Baker Makes the Best Bread in Miami
Before daybreak, Hialeah's streets are dark and quiet, lit up only by blinking traffic lights and the fleeting gleam of truck headlamps. But from within an unmarked building wafts a faint, uncanny sound. Though it seems unlikely, it's real: Taylor Swift is trilling about never, ever getting back together. And even more surprising, the noise is emanating from Miami's best bakery.
billwisserphoto.com Zak Stern AKA Zak the Baker
Zak Stern, the man behind the loaves, loves Taylor Swift. It's a funny thing considering he isn't 13 and doesn't own bright-red Keds. Standing nearly six feet tall, he has a thick, bushy beard and gentle caramel eyes. There's never a moment when he's not wearing a fedora or well-worn boots dusted with flour. And although he looks like a member of Mumford & Sons, he's actually the most talented breadmaker in town.
Hanging on a wall in the cramped, narrow workspace he rents from a local caterer, above a steel rack lined with sourdough loaves, is a small photo of Swift giving a thumbs-up. "GREAT WORK!" it screams in all caps. Stern looks at this photo often -- and when he does, he laughs.
Zak the Baker, as he has come to be known, works here while the rest of Miami sleeps, from 8 p.m. until about 11 a.m. He's usually a whiskey and old-time folk kind of guy, but during this graveyard shift, he listens to pop music to stay awake. "You get really delirious in the middle of the night," he says.
By day, he doesn't work alone. Beside him is his wife, Batsheva Wulfsohn, a petite, spirited woman who moved to Miami from the West Bank after meeting Stern in Israel. She is beautiful, her bronze hair hidden beneath a vibrant turban.
There are also Stern's apprentices, known as WWOOFers -- volunteers of Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. They travel the globe exchanging labor for room and board. On a recent morning, an American girl and a kid from Jerusalem make two things very clear: Tahini makes everything taste better, and the success of a workday should always be measured in coffee breaks.