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Chris Calvin: The Hardest-Working Man in White River

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The next time you find yourself cursing your alarm clock in the morning, consider Chris Calvin. He's a baker, and owner of The Baker's Studio in White River Junction, Vermont. He gets to work every weekday at 1:30 in the morning. For a magazine story, I followed him around during an early morning shift. For six hours, he was constantly on the move -- making dough, baking bread, proofing pastries, and cooking bagels -- and all the while, he was telling me about his life and career. It was a whole lot of fun, and I went home at 7:00 a.m. and slept through a good chunk of the day. His chapter is written in chronological order, telling his story in the order he told it to me. Here's a sample. 

 

 

 

2:30 a.m. Time to make the bread dough. Calvin is throwing ingredients into a gigantic mixing bowl: water, yeast, three kinds of flour. "This is my base," he says. "I make four different kinds of bread out of it." 

 

While the mixer does its work, Calvin reminisces about his late wife and partner, Meg Colao. They were pastry chefs at a New York City hotel when they met; after moving to the Upper Valley, they decided to open their own bakery.  

 

"The month before we opened, Meg was diagnosed with cancer. We had put $150,000 into this place. She was sick, we had no medical insurance. So I didn't have any choice but to work."

 

The mixer is done; Calvin takes the dough out of the bowl, and sets it on the work table. Then he runs into the pastry room, picks up trays full of cakes (boxed and labeled for retail sale), and carries them out to his van for the morning delivery run. 

 

"Five years after we opened, my wife passed away. That was six years ago." I ask how he managed to keep going. "My focus was, we needed the money to support her. My dad was sick at the same time. They died six months apart."

 

Things are much better now. "I'm busy, but I try to enjoy what I'm doing when I'm doing it. I have a great girlfriend the last three years." 

 

Calvin heads for the walk-in cooler in the bagel room. Inside are three rolling racks holding hundreds of raw bagels that were formed yesterday and left to proof overnight. They stay in the cooler for now; Calvin pulls out some sourdough loaves that spent the night in the cooler. 

 

For the first five hours of his day, Calvin is pretty much constantly on the move. "I used to go to the gym after work. I don't have the energy anymore. My knees hurt, my back hurts. But it comes with the territory." 



Read the rest of the story in my book, including Calvin's memories of working at one of Donald Trump's hotels, and his adventures delivering wedding cakes on the back roads of Vermont. 

Contact me by e-mail at john (at) johnswalters (dot) com