Josey Baker is a baker who lives on Baker Street. “I think that’s the main reason I got this apartment,” he laughs. “The landlord was like let me get this straight…”
The apartment, where Vermont-native Josey lives with his fiancé, and where we are now gathered, is quiet. And dark save for a single lamp. This is how Josey starts his morning four days a week – at the militant time of 5:00am, well before most of San Francisco has opened its eyes. It’s been this way since Josey started The Mill – a bakery and coffee shop opened in collaboration with Four Barrel Coffee where the main attraction is Josey’s bread. Patrons purchase it by the loaf or as thick-cut toast smeared with toppings like pumpkin butter and sea salt. “With starting a business, I’ve had to make my mornings very systematic,” Baker tells us. An understatement. The schedule he sends through to us, via email, is as follows:
i will wake up at 5:00am, make coffee and meditate til 5:35, drink coffee and read til 6:05, brush my teeth and go to bathroom and get dressed til 6:20, walk to bakery to arrive there by 6:35, run around cleaning up shit til 6:45, bake bread til 11:15 or so. happy to have you along for as much of that as you want, just know that bread is time sensitive and i will not be able to adjust my schedule very much to accommodate.
“When I went to write all of that down, I felt a bit like a psycho,” Josey grins as he makes himself coffee in the kitchen. “But it’s what I do.” He started baking bread when a friend gave him a sourdough starter, and soon after was selling the home-baked loaves, stockpiling flour in his bedroom. Roughly a year later, he had The Mill. He baked seven days a week when he opened. “That was an awesomely stupid challenge – I got so sick.” He now has a friendly staff in place to alleviate a bit of that work. After Josey’s routine (he stuck religiously to it, even reading a bit of The Sacred Path of the Warrior and meditating for 15 minutes), we chase him down the pre-dawn streets of Alamo Square. The Mill is a large space with skylights and sizeable windows, and when we arrive it’s the only business on the block with a pulse. Several employees scramble about. It’s time to bake.
Josey changes into his “baking shorts” – cutoff denim he leaves at work. “When I put my apron on, it looks like I’m not wearing pants. I get some funny looks.” He explains this as he pulls and pushes racks of dough out of the walk-in refrigerator. He places the uncooked loaves on a motorized prep station that drops down from above, where he flours and scores them individually before cooking. He’ll bake 300 loaves today. The Mill opens at 7:00. By 7:01 there are patrons in line. They order coffee and toast. Josey continues to bake. When we come over to tell him it’s time for us to go, he warmly thanks us and gives us bread. It’s still soft on the inside. The Silver Jews play over the sound system: “I take decaf coffee, two sugars and one cream…” Certain routines are worth sticking to.