When Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Pink first contacted San Francisco breadmaker Josey Baker two and a half years ago, he thought it was a prank. The artist, nee Alecia Moore, had seen Baker’s videos on Instagram and reached out via direct message. “How’s a winemaker down in the Santa Ynez Valley supposed to get some of that good flour?” the message read. Thus started an exchange through which Baker sent Pink a shipment of flour, and she would respond with photos of her bread. The two went back and forth in discussing baking for a time. “That was that,” Baker says. “I was just flattered and sort of shocked. Then literally a month ago, she messages me again, and just says, ‘Hey, I’m actually going to be in San Francisco for a show. You should come — and is there any way we could do a pizza class?’”
And that was the start of how Pink and a party of 11 — including her husband, Carey Hart, their two children, her backup singers and dancers, a wine collaborator, and her manager — ended up at the Mill on Divisadero Street on Friday, October 13 for a pizza-making class. Although Baker’s staff and family weren’t entirely convinced the messages were real, Baker flew home early from a family vacation in Hawaii for the event. “Lo and behold, people start showing up,” Baker says. “Then Pink rolls in with her husband and immediately hugs me and I’m just like, holy shit. I guess this is actually happening.”
Sourdough bread- and pizza-making classes have long been a part of the offerings at the Mill, the cafe and home of Baker’s breadmaking operation Josey Baker Bread, the cafe portion of which Baker co-owns with Tal Mor and Jodi Geren of Four Barrel Coffee. As a former curriculum developer at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, “teaching baking was actually something that I was doing in the very early days of starting the business,” Baker says. Students typically walk away from class with a lesson in doughmaking, plus a goody bag filled with baking supplies. That might include a sourdough starter and a pizza screen for pizza students, or a proofing basket, starter, and a razor for sourdough bread students.
Although Baker has largely stepped back from teaching in order to let his team take the lead, he co-taught Pink’s class with another manager and a number of excited JBB staffers, turning the event into a communal experience of sorts. “They were just so genuinely curious to learn all of the ins and outs [of pizza-making] and also, just so incredibly appreciative that we were interested and willing able to share it all with them,” Baker says of Pink and her group. “It was a really rewarding night for all of us in part because it was a group of extremely engaged and appreciative participants, which just feels really nice.”
Everyone made personal-sized sourdough pizzas, using seasonal produce from the farmer’s market, such as peppers, mushrooms, arugula, and onions, along with tomato sauce the group made in-house, plus mozzarella and vegan cheese. Pink shared the experience with her Instagram followers the next day, thanking Baker for the class. “We had so much fun and it was the best pizza I’ve ever had!!!!!!!!” she wrote.
Pink also invited Baker and five members of his team to her concert the following night at Chase Center promoting her Trustfall album. Bakee called the show “honestly one of the most amazing musical performance performances I’ve ever seen,” noting the artist’s high-flying flips and acrobatics that Pink does during her show, as well as the choreography and live instrumentation. Baker says his staff was “totally floored” by the concert. “It felt so special to me because Alecia was just so nice and appreciative and personable,” Baker says, “and she is one of those people that, right away, you feel like you’ve known her forever and she so funny and easy to talk with. Then you see her in front of 20,000 people and she’s being the same way, she’s just so comfortable.”
Baker called the class with Pink a high point of the year, but it also was a chance to reflect on what makes a class so special for the teacher. “It’s just a beautiful thing when you’re in love with something,” Baker says, “to be able to share it with other people who are genuinely interested. It’s just so affirming and it’s so connective, which is one of the things that I’ve always loved about bread — we say this about lots of food, but I think bread in particular holds this place in our culture, which is it’s something that brings people together, breaking bread.”