Years ago, Chet Fery decided to each himself how to bake bread. Every Sunday he baked up loaves of bread, lots of them, more than his family could eat. On Mondays, he brought the extras to the school where he worked as an administrator.
“I began to notice that people came to work early on Monday and would rush into the break room, grab a loaf, and hold it to their chest and smile,” says Fery, of Brockport, N.Y.
Thus began this 64-year-old amateur baker’s journey as “The Bread Man,” a name he’s earned for giving away more than 45,000 loaves to colleagues, friends and strangers.
“Bread is one of the most common foods on the planet and it has a spiritual meaning as well,” says Fery, who on some days bakes more than 400 loaves. “I’ve found that everyone has a bread story.”
Although he retired eight years ago, Fery is busy as ever as a public speaker, sharing recipes and inspirational “bread time” stories (and collecting other people’s stories for an upcoming book at breadtimestoriesandmore.com) around the country in corporate settings camps, schools, senior centers and churches.
Everywhere he speaks, Fery brings a loaf for every audience member. If the group has funds, he asks for a donation; otherwise he does it for free. Fery routinely carries loaves of bread with him around town, handing them out at the doctor’s office and to strangers on the street.
Bobbie Gluck, 48, got her first loaf many years ago when she met Fery at a farmer’s market. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow!’ You’re just going to give this to me?'” she says. “I’m a baker myself, and I know that making bread is really a labor of love. He’s one of the most generous and giving people I know.”
Fery says for every oaf he’s given away, he’s received a smile in return. And he believes recipients pay it forward. “You can change the world with one act of kindness—one loaf of bread—at a time,” he says.
Bake Your Best Loaf
• Flour matters. Be sure to use the type specified in the recipe. Example: Self-rising flour is all- purpose flour with baking powder and salt added—it’s not for yeast bread recipes.
• Top it. Before baking, brush your loaf with a slightly beaten egg white for added shine. Use an egg yolk for shine/darker browning.
• Get steamed. Prior to baking, put a cake pan on the oven’s bottom shelf. Fill with boiling water. This imitates professional bakers’ steam ovens, keeping the outside of the loaf moist for optimal rising.
• Be patient. Hot-out-of- the-oven bread is tough to resist, but don’t cut into it for at least 30 minutes. The bread is still baking— you’ll end up tearing and flattening the loaf.