The American Society of Baking (ASB) will induct six industry leaders into the Baking Hall of Fame during special ceremonies at BakingTECH 2023, the group’s annual meeting and technical conference, to be held February 28 to March 2, 2023, at the Hilton Chicago. The honorees and their affiliated organizations are:
- Frederick E. Cooper, Flowers Foods and CooperSmith, Inc.
- Joseph M. Day, Joseph M. Day Co./Banner Engineering & Sales, Inc. (dba Banner-Day)
- Harold Flynn, Flynn Burner Corp.
- G. Michael Gude, Sosland Publishing Co.
- Louis Rotella Sr. and Louis Rotella Jr., Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Inc.
“For 2023, the Baking Hall of Fame will recognize six individuals with extraordinary talents for business acumen and political activism, engineering excellence, supportive associations and friendships, as well as strong family baking ties and traditions,” said Rowdy Brixey, chair of the ASB Baking Hall of Fame Evaluation Committee and president of Brixey Engineering Strategies and Training, Inc., Holt, MO. “These character strengths demonstrate the best of the baking industry.”
When Flowers Foods decided to build through merger and acquisition during the 1980s, it appointed its first general counsel, a young lawyer named Frederick E. (Fred) Cooper, to navigate daunting regulatory and political currents. He later was named its executive vice president, president, and vice chairman and helped guide it to become the leading baking company in the South and then one of the three largest in the U.S. After leaving Flowers in 1989, Mr. Cooper formed CooperSmith, Inc., which he later merged with Earthgrains Co. (now Bimbo Bakeries USA). But Mr. Cooper's most important contribution to the baking industry was to raise its political influence in the halls of power in Washington, D.C.: he revitalized BreadPAC, the American Bakers Association’s political action committee. Under Mr. Cooper’s leadership, the PAC contributed to numerous political campaigns throughout the country, thus giving A.B.A. considerable clout in Congress. Mr. Cooper chaired the Georgia Republican Party for many years, making a strong friendship with the family of George H.W. and George W. Bush. He and his wife also generously contribute to several important medical foundations, university support groups, and entrepreneur incubators.
Known as the quintessential “oven man,” Joseph M. Day is responsible for much of the automation, safety, and engineering of today’s bakery ovens. He took his Michigan State degree in electrical engineering to Baker Perkins and later AMF, where he designed and patented the diathermic tray oven. Mr. Day served in World War II, rising to the rank of major. While in the U.S. Army, he was assigned to Bell Labs, developing advanced analog computer interfaces for radar and anti-aircraft guns. Returning to civilian life, he rejoined AMF and, in 1949, founded Joseph M. Day Co., which is today managed by the family’s second and third generations. Mr. Day brought to market the first automatic oven ignition and flame safeguard systems. Taking over Banner Engineering & Sales in 1959, he commercialized impedance electrical pipe heating systems that impart even and consistent flow to viscous fluids. He was the first to develop and refine, market and manufacture direct spark ignition systems to automate and enhance the safety of direct gas-fired tunnel and tray ovens.
The ribbon burners that Harold Flynn pioneered form the heart of thousands of direct gas-fired bakery ovens throughout the world today. He attended the Pratt Institute of Technology, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. Over the years, he earned numerous patents for equipment and processes using gas and flame technology. Many of these concerned methods to ensure steady and even heating across multiple gas jets within a single burner. Mr. Flynn served as president of Ensign Ribbon Burners during the early 1940s and founded Flynn Burner Corp. in 1946. From 1934 until his passing in 1978, he held numerous positions of leadership in the New Rochelle, N.Y., community, including trustee of the Iona College Institute of Arts, governor of the New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center and director of the First Winchester and Barclays banks.
With his flair for making friends and his abiding commitment to the baking industry’s many organizations, G. Michael (Mike) Gude is the publisher of Milling & Baking News and Baking & Snack magazines. As a colleague remarked, “Mike knows the milling and baking industries and allied suppliers. He knows them, befriends them, helps them make business connections and plays a crucial role in creating the intangible sense of community that is a hallmark of grain-based foods but is a quality that should never be taken for granted.” Mr. Gude has served as president of the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry, chairman of BEMA, and treasurer of the Grain Foods Foundation. His professional association with Sosland Publishing Co. has resulted in a number of successful, highly influential publications, including its newest ventures, Food Business News and Food Entrepreneur, among others. He is also active in the Kansas City, MO, community and deeply involved in his Catholic parish.
For father and son Louis Rotella Sr. and Louis Rotella Jr., baking is as much a family calling as it is a business. When patriarch Alessandro Rotella (Louis Sr.’s father) immigrated to the U.S. from Calabria, Italy, in 1909, he settled near Omaha to get a job with the railroad, but during a 1921 strike, he soon found himself running a small bakery, the family trade. The Rotella customer list grew, and when Louis Sr. returned from service in the U.S. Army in 1947, he and his brother took over the bakery business, moving it into progressively larger sites. Louis Jr. was running production by the time he was in the eighth grade, and in 1976, with the help and guidance of his father, Louis Jr. took over day-to-day operation of the business, which has continued to expand, today occupying three separate sites on a 32-acre campus. It now employs the family’s fourth generation. Both men earned the respect of their community with Louis Sr. named Outstanding Italian-American for the years 1973 and 1986, purveyor of the year for the Omaha Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association. Louis Jr.’s awards include the Omaha Golden Spike and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of the Nebraska, Omaha. He was inducted into the 2019 Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.
“The individuals we elect to the Baking Hall of Fame have earned the respect of their customers, suppliers, communities, and industry,” Mr. Brixey said. “They inspire our future by their examples.”
Since its launch in 2006, the Baking Hall of Fame will have enshrined 103 individuals as of 2023. They come from all walks of life in the baking industry—from bakeries, allied equipment and ingredient suppliers, schools, service organizations, and media companies. Their accomplishments can be read at asbe.org—click on “About Us” and then “The Baking Hall of Fame.” This website also provides forms and instructions for nominating industry leaders for future induction into the ASB Baking Hall of Fame.