Flourish Bakery is thriving in MidvaleNov 08, 2021 02:54PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
Interns at Flourish bake cookies, bread, pastries and other treats for sale while recovering from substance use disorder. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)
By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]
It’s been just over a year since Flourish Bakery moved to Midvale, and they’ve begun putting down roots—literally.
“We just planted fig trees last week,” said Sam Ball, the bakery’s program and operations manager.
Flourish is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals recover from addiction while learning high-end culinary skills and earning a living wage. In the four years since the program began, 85% of interns have maintained sobriety, which is nearly double the rate for the average American struggling with substance use disorders.
Flourish received a grant from Slow Food Utah to set up a garden in the landscape strips on either side of the building at 752 W. Center St. in Midvale. A volunteer tends the tomatoes, rosemary and thyme, which are used as ingredients in the baked goods.
The garden is just one big change at Flourish. In the past year, the bakery has opened a small shop, begun offering delivery through DoorDash, hired experienced instructors, and brought in 10 new interns.
Shelby Baker had been struggling with addiction for years when her parents heard about Flourish and encouraged her to apply in December 2020.
“I baked just at home,” Baker said. “I cooked with my grandma and aunt and mom. We made massive amounts of cookies to give away. Then my aunt passed away and we stopped.”
Her first day at Flourish was in February and since then she has learned more baking techniques than she ever thought possible.
“I finally learned how to brown butter,” Baker said. “Last week I was really pleased. I made a pumpkin loaf with dates and used the brown butter frosting. It was amazing.”
For months, Baker commuted to Flourish from Salt Lake City, but recently found an apartment in Midvale for herself and her three-year-old son.
“Now it’s a five-minute walk instead of three hours on public transportation,” Baker said.
The day begins at 6 a.m. for Flourish interns and ends at 2 p.m. They start the daily baking first thing in the morning, then participate in a reflection session to check in with each other and set the mood for the day.
Interns participate in a writing circle using a prompt from Own It SLC, a local writing and performance group. On Thursdays the interns work out with Warrior Strength, a gym for individuals in recovery. The interns also eat a family-style lunch together each day. They take turns cooking lunch for the group using fresh vegetables from Wasatch Community Garden.
Flourish makes a point to partner with other nonprofit organizations to cultivate a wider community and support system even after interns have completed their training.
“We have an ambassador program for graduates,” said Sarah Vogel, communications and social media manager for Flourish. “They go speak about Flourish at events, and are also able to check in with the chaplain. They can continue working out at Warrior Strength. We’re building a bigger community.”
That community also includes the talented instructors who work with the interns every day. Amber Billingsley and Erin Wollschleger were brought in as instructors in 2021. Both have worked at prestigious local bakeries, restaurants and resorts.
Billingsley connected one intern, Sean Oviatt, with a unique opportunity: baking a wedding cake for a local chef.
“I did wedding cakes in the past,” Oviatt said. “But I hadn’t done one in 20 years. Amber coached me through the whole thing.”
After just over a year with Flourish, Oviatt has finished the final module of his internship, where he chose a theme and baked a group of related items.
“I really wanted to do kolaches,” Oviatt said. “So my theme is Eastern Europe. It’s an area of baking I’ve never done before. It’s where pastries were born. The methodologies with bread are different.”
At the end of October Oviatt prepared a number of products, including flat bread, an Austrian torte and a Hungarian tart, which were evaluated by the instructors.
Dennis Sisneros was the only other intern at Flourish when Oviatt began his training in 2020. Sisneros completed his externship at Harmons Neighborhood Grocer this year and now works there as an artisan baker.
Though Flourish interns focus on learning culinary skills, they’re free to choose any path after graduating. Baker is interested in the criminal justice field.
“I did start college when I was 20,” Baker said. “I dropped out when addiction took full force. I want to go back and see what I can do.”
Though his training was complete at the end of October, Oviatt plans to stay through November to help fulfill pie orders for Thanksgiving. Flourish sold around 400 pies in 2020 and hopes to double that number this year.
Flourish will be taking preorders for its holiday pies through Nov.17. The deep dish pies include apple, pumpkin, maple pecan and chocolate cream made with Ugandan chocolate from Solstice Chocolate, another local business.
Dozens of items are for sale each day in the small shop, including cookies, muffins, biscuits, bread, and pies both sweet and savory. For the holidays, Flourish will offer a shelf-stable cookie mix in a jar to be given as a gift. The “back door store” is open Wednesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Once the holiday rush is over, Oviatt plans to begin his externship with another recovery organization.
“It’s nice to be the senior intern,” Oviatt said. “I feel a lot of responsibility to stay sober and pass on what I’ve learned.”