Coming rye-t up: Stick Boy co-head baker Jeremy Bollman discusses his love for bread and creating

Jeremy Bollman demonstrates bread-making techniques, which he uses to create different pastries as head baker of Stick Boy Bread Company. Kim Reynolds | The Appalachian

Alexander McCall

Jeremy Bollman demonstrates bread-making techniques, which he uses to create different pastries as head baker of Stick Boy Bread Company.  Kim Reynolds  |  The Appalachian
Three years ago, Jeremy Bollman was unhappily working for a building supply company in Foscoe.

Now he makes thousands of loaves of bread, rolls and baguettes each week for Stick Boy Bread Company and said he has never been happier.

“I read this article recently about a subculture of hipster dads in Sweden,” Bollman said. “They quit their jobs to be stay-at-home dads and they bake at home. Their dream is to be professional bakers one day. It’s funny because that’s basically my life.”

Before Stick Boy, Bollman worked for two building supply companies in Foscoe and Spruce Pines, making siding for houses and commercial buildings. 

“I was miserable,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere.”

So, on a whim, he quit. 

Luckily, he was a friend of Carson Coatney, the owner of Stick Boy Bread Company. Coatney offered him a job working in the kitchen and his wife a job in the front of the house. At this point, Bollman had almost no experience baking or cooking, but three months into his new job, the head baker moved to Massachusetts. 

Coatney offered Bollum and Josh Wagner, who had also started in the kitchen around the same time, the job. Since then, Bollman and Wagner have split the duties of head baker evenly. 

A typical workday for Bollman starts at 8 p.m. Usually the first bread maker to arrive, he immediately gets to work reading and sorting the orders for the day, crossing out the sweet bread and pastry orders that the prep crew handles and highlighting the names and quantities of the bread he will have to make for the coming morning. 

Most nights there are more than 40 orders for each of the bakery’s staple items, such as its baguettes and country French rounds. During the bakery’s several peak seasons – late summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, to name a few – bakers will sometimes be in the kitchen until 5 a.m. making specialty orders.

“We spent two hours boxing yeast rolls last year,” said Stick Boy bread maker and junior appropriate technology major Allison Langewisch. 

Langewisch is one of three students who currently work as bread makers at Stick Boy.  She also described a situation last spring when she had to remake 48 dozen buns that fell flat in the oven, to be sold wholesale to Melanie’s on King Street. 

Despite peak-season stresses like this, Langewisch said that the work environment created in large part by Bollman is what keeps her loving her job. 

“There’s two or three of us listening to music and you’re relaxed,” she said. “At my old job I would work 12 hours a week and be stressed. Now I’ll work eight- or 10-hour days and it’s fun. I could definitely see myself continuing to do it.”

As head baker, Bollman now has a lot of freedom to experiment and come up with new recipes for the company. His creations include Carolina Sourdough made with North Carolina milled wheat, Olive de Provence and a sprouted five-grain bread. 

“I try to bake at home at least once a week to test new recipes,” he said.

Much of Bollman’s inspiration comes from the thriving community of bread makers who are active on Instagram. Home bakers and professionals post pictures of their work with descriptions of the hydration content, the grains used and the specific techniques used to attain the perfect loaf. 

“It’s a ton of nerdy bakers liking each other’s stuff,” he said. 

For Bollman, baking bread has changed his life.

“Sometimes you’ll get antsy with the job and then you have a breakthrough or find a new grain to work with,” he said. “It’s got creativity. It’s got chemistry. It’s got fire. I fell in love with it.”

STORY: EMMA SPECKMAN, A&E Reporter
PHOTO: KIM REYNOLDS, Intern Photographer