Himmelrich and his wife, Shelly, are co-chairs of Empty Bowls Delray Beach, a fundraiser for the food bank.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
If nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven, Billy Himmelrich spreads love by the truckload. His Delray Beach-based Old School Bakery delivers artisan bread to some of South Florida’s finest resorts and eateries, including The Breakers hotel, Cafe Boulud, Joe’s Stone Crab and The Fontainebleau.
Himmelrich, a Gulf Stream resident, says baking bread is a passion for him. But he hates to see any of it go to waste.
“Throwing out good bread was the bane of my existence,” he said. That is until Himmelrich built a relationship with the Palm Beach County Food Bank several years ago.
“The Palm Beach County Food Bank has helped us achieve nearly zero waste in our business because they regularly pick up the baked goods we have not sold and distribute it free of charge to the agencies which serve the hungry in our community,” Himmelrich said.
“Nationwide statistics show that about one-third of food produced in the hospitality industry ends up being thrown away and that is just a shame,” he said. “The fact that one in six people in Palm Beach County face hunger is not acceptable, especially since we live in such an affluent community. We are happy to partner with the food bank as the umbrella agency which knows where the need is and can distribute our contributions in an efficient and effective way.”
This year Himmelrich and his wife, Shelly, who runs a charitable foundation, are taking their commitment to helping hungry people a step further. They are co-chairing Empty Bowls Delray Beach, a community event to increase awareness of hunger in the community and to raise money to support the Palm Beach County Food Bank.
The Himmelrichs have been bread providers for the Empty Bowls events in Palm Beach for the past few years and are happy to bring the event to Delray Beach this year.
The event will be Dec. 4. at Old School Square, one of the sponsors. The public is invited to “eat simply, so others can simply eat.”
Participants will choose from among beautiful handmade bowls created by artists and enjoy a variety of delicious soups provided by local restaurants, paired with artisan breads provided by Old School Bakery.
Himmelrich, 53, got his neighbor and friend, philanthropist and Hardrives founder George Elmore, to serve as honorary chairman.
“We’re really doing it in an old-fashioned, grassroots way,” he said. “The Empty Bowls events in Palm Beach were church-based. We had to secure a park at Old School Square where I’m on the board. Shelly and I are responsible to cover 100 percent of the events through donations. We bought about 2,000 handmade pottery bowls. One hundred percent of the event’s proceeds will go to the charity.”
For a $25 donation, guests will experience the simple communal meal and take home the handmade bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls of hungry people in Palm Beach County. A holiday gift pottery sale will offer opportunities to buy additional bowls and other items, all to benefit the Palm Beach County Food Bank in providing food at no cost to more than 100 local agencies on the front line of hunger in Palm Beach County.
“We hope to make this a family event, a nice coming together,” Himmelrich said.
The Himmelrichs, who have lived in Gulf Stream for 18 years, have two sons, Max, 20, a student at UCLA, and Charlie, 17, a student at Taft in Watertown, Conn.
— Mary Thurwachter
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school?
A. I grew up in Baltimore and went away to boarding school in ninth grade — Taft in Watertown, Conn. I went to Emory and studied economics for a year at Paris Institute of Political Studies.
Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. My first real job was at Häagen-Dazs in Baltimore. I dispatched trucks, worked for a caterer, worked as a line cook, worked at a shake shop and other jobs through college. I graduated from Emory and went to work for JP Morgan in 1986. I moved to France in 1988 to go to cooking school and apprentice. I moved back to the U.S. two years later, cooked the line in Washington D.C., made bread and pasta at a Tuscan restaurant, and started my first business — The Stone Mill Bakery in 1991.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person selecting a career today?
A. Do what you love. It makes hard work fun.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Gulf Stream?
A. When we looked for a home we just drove around. We had a weekend to pick one. We crossed George Bush Boulevard into Gulf Stream and saw there were trees growing over the road. Beautiful. After that, there was no other choice for me. I had to live there.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Gulf Stream?
A. The setting. It’s beautiful.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. American Heiress, about Patty Hearst, and Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. I listen to country and classic rock with no purpose.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. Lead by example.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. I have a lot of role models but have had to mentor myself. Anybody who is successful in the food business is a role model because it’s such a hard business.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. Kris Kristofferson. He’s awesome. I saw him in concert in Boca. He marches to the beat of his own drummer. And I’m a frustrated guitar player.
Empty Bowls Delray Beach
Why: Raise funds for the Palm Beach County Food Bank, which provides food at no cost to more than 100 local agencies on the front line of hunger in the county.
When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Old School Square at 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach
Cost: $25 donation