East York man spending pandemic baking the city a better place with his free pies
Bradley Harder has baked more than 200 pies for members of his community
For Bradley Harder, life is what you bake of it.
The East York resident says there's nothing quite like the comfort you get from a warm pie, save for a "warm hug from your mom."
That's why he started the Pandemic Pie Project, aimed at bringing joy to his community in the form of free pies. He's baked more than 16 dozen so far, and he doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
"It makes me feel like the filling of a pie: ooey, gooey and sweet," Harder says.
"It's just pie, pie, pie, pie, pie. That's my world."
WATCH: Harder explains the method behind his pie-making madness
The whole enterprise began in early April.
As someone who's almost 60 living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among other health issues, Harder says he began to worry about the growing threat of the pandemic.
He decided he wouldn't leave his house, but to pass the time, he started creating YouTube videos called Cooking without pants — tutorials for homemade meals like lasagna.
In one of the videos, Harder mentioned running out of some ingredients. So, some friends watching decided they'd order groceries to his door.
"I was so moved by this that I thought, 'Well, what can I do? I mean I'm stuck at home, I'm vulnerable ... I've got COPD, I don't want to catch the disease,'" he said.
"So I thought about it and said, 'Well, I can bake.'"
He started by baking pies for the people who'd sent him food, then for some friends, then for some neighbours, and 200 pies later, Harder's still getting requests.
"I'm relegated to my kitchen all day long, though. I wake up at 7 a.m. in the morning, turn my oven on, go to bed at 9 p.m. at night when I turn my oven off. I can't wait to get my hydro bill."
Kathryn Rose — a friend of Harder's from his days as a jazz musician — and her two children are some of the lucky recipients of one of Harder's apple pies.
"So good. What a flaky crust. Perfection."
Rose says it's no surprise he's taking his time in quarantine to do something good for the community.
"It's unbelievable" says Rose. "He won't quit ... He's just a lovely guy. A big-hearted person."
WATCH: Rose's children Styx Macniven, 14, and Ivor Macniven, 11, made a card and a song for Harder titled Pie Man
Despite pain in his wrists and arms from rolling and kneading the dough, Harder says he's still enjoying baking, adding its worth the joy the pies are bringing the community.
Clearly, his customers appreciate the service. Whereas Harder had started the project buying the ingredients himself, he's now finding flour, butter and fresh fruit at his door, along with some financial contributions.
"I mean, it's such a simple thing. We take things for granted like that," Harder says.
"It's just love. It expresses love. You can't eat a pie without a smile on your face. That's my philosophy, and I'm sticking to it."
Harder plans to continue baking pies until the end of the pandemic. He's even thinking of opening his own bakery once it's all over.
He says he wants to challenge any other baker — or person with a special talent — to use it for the betterment of their community.
"Do what you do, give it away for free. It'll come back to you, I swear," he says.
"It's a bad business model on paper, but it works. People are good."
With files from Paul Borkwood