Jay Metzler is the owner and baker behind the all sourdough bakery Idle Hands Bread Company, which recently moved from a 230 square foot space in Scott’s Addition to a much more expansive space in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood.
The menu at the French-inspired bakery consists of freshly baked bread, pastries and even pizza dough (only available on Fridays and Saturdays). Idle Hand’s signature bread, Epps bread, is named after a friend of Metzler’s who helped him get the formula for the bread where it need to be. The Epps bread is a standard country blonde and can be used for everything from sandwiches to crostini to garlic bread. His pastry offerings include both simple flavors and more quirky ones, showcased in options like the lemon curd croissant. Metzler affectionately refers to the bakery as being a bit rough a around the edges — a bakery for everyone, he says.
Why the move? The former Idle Hands location in Scott’s Addition was limiting because of its size, Metzler couldn’t push production where it needed to be. When the summer months came around, the space was also limiting in its lack of good air conditioning. Metzler’s bread was over proofing, his butter was melting and he could no longer control his baking process.
In Jackson Ward, he has room to expand – both in quantity and product selection. Metzler is excited to use the additional square footage for experimentation, something he simply didn’t have room for before. He plans to introduce baguettes in a few months and has already been offering pastry specials in addition to the regular menu on an almost daily basis. When I recently visited the bakery, the special of the day was a cannoli filled croissant. Let’s just say it took a lot of willpower to not take them all home with me.
The Man Behind the Bread: Jay Metzler
Metzler had never been a “professional food person” before opening Idle Hands. While he enjoyed cooking at home, his background was in record stores and craft beer.
When talking about the difference between baking and cooking, Metzler said, “In cooking you can be creative — add and subtract different things — you don’t need a recipe. In baking, there are absolute structures you have to follow. That’s what I didn’t like about it at first. But then I found where I could sort of blur those lines with sourdough and natural yeast and that’s when I fell in love it. I just dove in.”
He is self-taught and has had no classes or instruction whatsoever. It took a few years of practicing at home and at a local coffee shop he owned in Bon Air before he felt like he could do what he is doing now — though, he says what he is doing now has always been the end goal.
Metzler has never been to France — it’s a dream of his to go — but a bakery there that he came across while doing research online, Boulangerie Poilane, served as a source of inspiration for Idle Hands Bread Company. In time, he would like to add someone to his team who can make confections, something that he thinks will bring him even closer to his goal of becoming a “real” French-inspired bakery.
Everything at Idle Hands is done by hand. The bakery’s use of all natural yeast leads to products that are flavorful, healthier — and for Metzler, also more temperamental, something he acknowledged with a smile.
If you visit Idle Hands Bread Company
Idle Hands Bread Company, is open at 312 Brook Road, Wednesday – Friday from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
For first time visitors, Metzler recommends that customers try one of a few different tried and true items – like the Epps bread, mixed berry cream cheese Danish or the blueberry buttermilk biscuit, which is my favorite item from the bakery.
You can also find Idle Hands products at the following locations around town:
- Pastries: Saison Market
- Epps bread: Yellow Umbrella Provisions, Union Market, Stock Provisions – Richmond, Outpost Richmond, Once Upon a Vine South, Little House Green Grocery and Belmont Butchery
- Pizza dough: In the freezer sections of Stock Provisions – Richmond, Little House Green Grocery and Outpost Richmond
I’m already looking forward to picking up a fresh loaf of bread or some homemade pizza dough on my next visit to Idle Hands!