About the BHB

Who Am I?



My name is Matt Strenger, and I am the Black Hat Baker. Welcome to my blog!I was born in Queens, New York and lived most of my life on the Jersey Shore near Atlantic City. After going to college in Connecticut for a BA in Psychology and a grand total of ten years as an EMT and a nurse’s aide, I attended the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, NJ. For a couple years, I baked cakes for private orders, worked in one of the Atlantic City casinos, and helped out with private events. Two years ago, I moved out to Portland, OR with my then-girlfriend-now-wife Emily, and started working in a small cafe on the east side.

“Reps, Rolling Pins, and Building A Better Baker”


     Ever since I was kid, I loved food and cooking. I learned to love feeding people and throwing dinner parties from my parents. They taught me the joy of feeding others, and myself.

At the same time, for the majority of my life, I was very overweight. Right into adulthood, I didn’t exercise, I ate horribly, and I was in constant pain- both emotional and physical. At my heaviest, I weighed 270 pounds. I had horrendous back and knee pain, and was very likely to get everything that my family medical history promised- heart problems, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and more.

About 5 years ago, I decided things needed to change.


 I dropped old habits and picked up newer, healthier ones. I started exercising regularly. Between running, weightlifting, and bodyweight exercise, I found new hobbies that I could love. My outlook and attitude toward life began to change radically for the better, and I knew that I could continue to work in the culinary world- a very physically demanding field- without fear that my body would be betray me, or health issues would force me to quit.
I could now live and work on my terms.

“On The Bench” began as just a blog for my side business “The Black Hat Bakery” that I rarely updated. As my lifestyle changed, I started getting questions from friends and relatives about how I was doing it- and how they could start. I decided to re-work the blog into a place where I could tell them everything I learned. I wanted to start writing not just about living healthier, but living WELL. Losing weight and becoming healthy was never about “giving up” anything, and nor should it be. I still loved food and drink- enough to wait ten years to start a career in it. I love sitting and reading as much as exercising. Living well doesn’t just mean keeping yourself healthy- it means pursuing things that make you HAPPY. It means challenges and simple joys. It means old friends around a table and new friends at bars. I wanted to tell THAT story too.

It’s a story for anyone who loves food, drink, culture, living life on their own terms- and keeping it classy all the way.

I’m the Black Hat Baker- and this is going to be interesting.

P.S. If you want to know more, or just want to say “Hi!,” shoot me an email!