Making the bread to get the dough
As Joaquin Romero enters the Old Grist Mill Bread Company a slight breeze exits. The smell of glaze that drips off the doughnuts lingers in the air. In the back two mixers are motionless, waiting for Romero to add the ingredients to make white, honey whole wheat, multi-grain breads and cinnamon rolls.
As Romero starts mixing flour, honey, yeast, water, and the other ingredients a smell of flour takes over the bakery.
"It smells like dust," Romero said. "Clean dust."
The dust smell will remain until the breads and bagels are cooked then the smell of fruit from the bagels drifts by.
Within minutes, his clothes which hang on him like a rag doll, are covered in flour. His hands leave white hand prints on his Levis. His baseball cap is covered in flour from re-adjusting it. It looks as if it used to be blue but now is a nice white-flour color.
After two years of waking up early, it's still hard, Romero said. His crack of dawn comes before most farm animals have stirred for the first time.
"My only worry is showing up for work," said Romero. "If I oversleep the next shift will not have anything to do. When Kristy comes in I wont be here and the store will be locked. It's a big responsibility."
Kristen Hatfield and Paula Bradford are two employees who come into work at 5 and 5:30 a.m.
Hatfield's job is to boil the bagels. She retrieves the bagels from the refrigerator. As she walks up to the front she maneuvers the cart carefully through the mixers and Romero.
Hatfield is a part-time student at USU.
"The hours are not that bad," Hatfield said. "I don't sleep much anyway." Bradford is the scone maker. She drives down from Samaria Idaho every morning to work.
"I don't mind the drive," Hatfield said. "It's not that bad."
Before his current job Romero had a hard time gaining any weight. He worked a lot of jobs where heavy lifting was required. Going to work was a workout all by itself. Since starting his job he has put on some weight, but not a lot.
"This job is not intensive enough to break a sweat," Romero said. "I eat a lot of breads."
Romero came from Mexico to Logan, Utah in 1989, with a friend. His friend wanted to move to Logan so Romero followed.
"I just wanted to find out what the American lifestyle was like," Romero said. "I was 17 years old. I wanted to experience the `American dream'. Pretty soon I discovered it wasn't what I was told."
Romero enjoys working the early morning shift because it gives him a chance to spend time with his family and work at his other job as a financial planner.
When Romero is not at work, he can be found playing football with his son or reading a book to his daughter.
"In our religion we spend one night a week having family home evening," Romero said. "Besides that, we like to share ideas to make things better in our home."
"I like working early," Romero said. "It gives you a lot of free time. I work until lunch, go home and take a nap. My friend told me to only take a 15-to-20 minute power nap, so that is what I do. I'm not as energized but I still keep pretty active."
After Romero is finished at the bakery and has had a nap he starts his other job.
"I am starting my own home business," Romero said. "As a financial planner. I'm always open to opportunities. I think it's good to have a social income. I like to find better ways to work smart and harder."
As you walk into the back of the store where the cooking takes place you find that it is as slippery as Old Main Hill, with a thick sheet of ice, in the dead of winter. The floor at the store is not covered in ice but flour, which can be just as dangerous.
"This is one place if you're allergic to flour you don't want to be around," Romero said.
The bakery has cooking utensils everywhere. Perishable ingredients are stored away in one of many refrigerators located throughout the store. Flour not only covers the floor and Romero but also covers the counter tops.
The first thing Romero does at work is to take the batter out of the fridge for the cookies. He then starts making the dough for the honey whole wheat bread. The bakery doesn't use sugar in any of their breads, they only use honey.
On the floor next to the mixer are two large barrels. The barrels are horizontal to the ground. They are 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. There is a spout on each barrel that, when opened, a golden brown substance flows out. One might think it is something to drink but these barrels release honey.
Before the 60-gallon mixer is turned on, Romero, mixes the ingredients with a paddle. It is the kind of paddle that would come with a kayak, just on a smaller scale. The paddle is 2 feet long. As he paddles the mixture it looks as if he is going to row right out of the store. Romero is very quick and paddles through the mixture like someone boating through a thick swamp. He is mixing the water, yeast, honey, eggs, flour and other ingredients used for the different kinds of breads.
Romero pays close attention to what he has put in the mixer. He will check the list once more before turning it on to mix.
"The thing is just to make sure you get everything in," Romero said. "In the past two years there has been four or five times when I've forgotten an ingredient. It is really obvious when you do though."
"One time I forgot to put the baking soda into the pumpkin bread," Romero said. "We found that it didn't work very well and people usually don't like it. It hasn't happened since."
Romero tries to follow a sequence every day so when he gets done he automatically moves onto the next job.
After mixing the bread Romero prepares oversized buckets to hold the dough as it rises. They are five gallon buckets, the kind that hold economy laundry detergent. After the batch of dough mixes, he divides the dough into four equal parts to rise. When he opens the lid of the mixer memories of the movie, The Blob come to mind. It was like a mountain of dough being held together by the sides of the mixer as not to let it ooze out and engulf the bakery.
Romero continues to make different kinds of breads throughout the morning. He will also make French bread, cinnamon rolls and bagels.
"Everything we make here is made from scratch," Romero said. "It takes a whole lot of work but it tastes a lot better."
The bread tastes like homemade bread, whether your mom made it or someone else. Once it hits your taste buds all you feel is a little piece of heaven. If bread is made in heaven, it probably tastes similar.
As the clock hits 11 a.m. Romero is ready to leave. The bakery has been open for hours and customers are able to purchase bread that was made earlier that morning. Romero hangs his flour-covered apron and heads to the door. The smells that lingered in the bakery when he first came in are gone and have been replaced by the smell of freshly baked bread. Every day he leaves taking a little bit of work home with him on his clothing.