I consider myself a confident cook. Or at least you would hope so considering I run our Community Senior Meal Program. Curious then, I am just terrified of bread baking. I respect bakers with the esteem I would pay to a brain surgeon. This is why Earl Thomas is my hero. Many months ago, when he was just a phone number to me, I called Earl. He was in the kitchen the next day, and he’s been a part of most meals ever since then. If you don’t know Earl, you may still know Earl’s rolls.
Long before coming to HIP, Earl got his start in the kitchen as a dishwasher on a cruise ship. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became head chef. Although he honed his craft in that kitchen, he is quick to point out that his first teacher was his mama. He learned all the basics from her. After years on the ocean, Earl settled in Seattle when he was offered a job as the lead chef for the kitchen that serves the players’ club at Safeco field. His kitchen served up to 2,000 people in a single night. Now retired, the HIP kitchen is one of the lucky recipients of Earl’s time and talents.
On most Mondays and Wednesdays he arrives before any other prep volunteer to begin the dough. He never uses a recipe. It’s all done from memory. As the dough rises and rests, he circulates the kitchen taking on a few roles. He has become the de facto DJ for the kitchen. Between changing out the music, he’ll offer tips and tricks that he has accumulated over his many years in the kitchen. Then he’ll pull the finished rolls out of the oven, perfectly baked, every time. Earl never hesitates to remind us that they taste so good because they are made with love. If it were anybody else it might sound cheesy, but you can tell it’s true. That’s why everyone loves Earl’s rolls … and Earl.