If you aren't familiar with Zak Stern, the self-taught baker who became South Florida's premier artisan breadmaker after popping up in the local scene several years ago, you will be soon. The skilled baker first began crafting his now-famous breads at his home in 2011. Winning the favor of local restaurateurs Steven Perricone and Michelle Bernstein prompted a move to a commercial facility in Hialeah where he worked six days, baking up to 280 loaves per day to sell to Miami's best restaurants and markets.
A year later, a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than its $30,000 goal. So Stern and his wife/partner, Batsheva Wulfsohn, expanded operations and opened their current Wynwood bakery in 2014.
Today, the Miami baker is best known for working with local farms and chefs who nurture the city's growing craft scene. He's equally beloved for his crazy-delicious sourdough, loaves that are handcrafted from start to finish using a special yeast that bake to a deep golden-amber hue with a sturdy, chewy crust and an interior that offers an acidic, intense flavor.
Over the last few years, the Wynwood-based bakery and cafe has remained one of the few places Zak the Baker fans can purchase Stern's assortment of breads. Thanks to a recent collaboration with Whole Foods Market, however, foodies as far north as West Palm Beach can now find a curated selection of Zak the Baker fresh-baked breads in each store's bakery department.
Stern's partnership with Whole Foods Market initially began in January 2015 when the downtown Miami location began offering several loaves for sale.
"This is a beautiful example of a large national retailer and a small local craftsman coming together to bring out the best in each other."
In an effort to help push local supplier growth, now every Whole Foods Market in the local tricounty area is offering a curated selection of Stern’s artisanal products, most priced at $6 a loaf.
The partnership provides the first — and, moving forward, what will stand as the only — retail venue where you can purchase these one-of-a-kind artisan baked goods outside Miami.
"This is a beautiful example of a large national retailer and a small local craftsman coming together to bring out the best in each other," said Stern. "We provide fresh-baked bread every morning to all the Whole Foods Market stores in South Florida, where they provide the highest-quality standards for a retail outlet. This collaboration allows us to stay focused on the craft."
Zak the Baker breads sold at Whole Foods Market include his country wheat hearth bread; Jewish rye hearth bread; multigrain hearth bread; olive zataar hearth bread; artisan baguettes; cranberry walnut hearth bread; and a specialty babka — a spongy, brioche-like yeast cake hailing from Central and Eastern Europe — available exclusively at Whole Foods Market South Florida stores.
Stern’s bread is made with natural leaven. Each loaf is hand-shaped and baked on stones, a traditional process practiced for thousands of years. He is committed to carrying on the tradition, meaning every loaf of bread and babka he prepares is made in the Zak the Baker's Wynwood bakery and delivered to Whole Foods Market locations daily.
Participating stores include downtown Miami, Coral Gables, Aventura, North Miami, Pinecrest, South Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Wellington.
"Zak the Baker’s products have become such a hot commodity for locals, the city’s top eateries, and our shoppers," said Robert Whittaker, Whole Foods Market South Florida regional bakery coordinator. "We admire Zak’s craftsmanship and appreciate his detail to artisan goods."
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram