Baking is Heavy Lift
story by Jennifer Tai
It is 11:30 p.m. and Josh Ryan is getting ready to go to work at Kirchhoff's, Paducah's oldest bakery. His wife, Sabrina, and step-daughter Sidney are asleep. He says goodbye to his dog Spot and cat Lucy before driving off into the night to make bread for a town that's just going to bed.
Josh, 38, is a partner with Ginny Kirchhoff Elmore, the great-great granddaughter of the original Kirchhoff. The bakery creates artisan breads, pastries and cakes, runs a bustling deli and supplies baked goods to small businesses and restaurants in town. Thirty-two years after it closed due to a changing economy, Kirchhoff 's reopened in 1997, thanks to Ginny and her father, Louis Kirchhoff Jr. This was the same year Josh started work as a "floater," doing odd jobs. Josh began learning the ropes and soon was baking bread. He became a partner 10 years later.
Josh is a workhorse, preparing dough, shaping bread and baking from midnight to around 6 a.m. He works 16 hours a day, has not taken a real vacation in five years and suffered through a herniated disk from heavy lifting a couple of years ago.
Nine months ago, the bakery hired Philip Rowland, a 24-year old culinary graduate. Josh hopes Philip will be able to lighten his load eventually, although the interim training period has resulted in longer hours for Josh. He hopes to hire a few more bread makers but does not know when he will actually be able to cut back his hours.
This is worrisome for his wife Sabrina.
"I just want to eat dinner together again," she says.