Chef-turned-monk puts baking skills to good use at St. Nazianz monastery

Fr. Moses Wright helps support Byzantine-rite community by selling baked goods

ST. NAZIANZ — The smell of freshly baked pies, cookies, pizzas and other tasty treats makes the kitchen at Holy Resurrection Monastery a shrine for the senses. Thanks to Fr. Moses Wright, a former chef and one of the monastery’s Byzantine monks, guests have another reason to visit, pray or make a retreat at Holy Resurrection.

Fr. Moses Wright, a former chef and one of the Byzantine monks at Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, sprinkles toppings over one of his New York-style pizzas he recently made. The monastery sells a variety of treats each month baked by Fr. Moses. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Before joining the Byzantine-rite community, Fr. Moses, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., worked as a cook at various hotels and restaurants in the New York area. While serving as a private chef on a yacht in Greece, he said he was introduced to the Byzantine liturgy and spirituality and gave up the chef’s apron for a monk’s habit.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking and it was a toss-up for me to become a chef or to join a monastery,” he said. Thanks to the opportunity to sell freshly baked goods as a fund-raiser for the monastery, “I’ve been able to do both.”

Before Holy Resurrection Monastery relocated to northeastern Wisconsin in 2011, the monks lived in Newberry Springs, Calif. “We purchased a bakery which we ran to help support the community,” said Fr. Moses. He described the bakery as a “commercial outfit supplying baked goods to a number of restaurants, delis and markets.”

The bakery, however, grew too large for the monks to operate, so it was sold. “When we came to Wisconsin, we were looking for a way to help pay the bills and decided baking might be an option,” said Fr. Moses.

It turned out to be a match made in heaven.

First, as the monks state on their website, hrmonline .org/bakery, “We were delighted to find so many delicious local ingredients — especially milk, cheese and butter.” Couple that with the skills of a former chef and his long list of recipes, it made sense to fire up the ovens once again.

Fr. Moses Wright, one of the Byzantine monks living at Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, bakes one of his New York-style pizzas in the monastery’s kitchen. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“We knew the work fit well with our main focus of living a life of prayer,” said Fr. Moses. “We decided this time to keep control of the bakery and not let the bakery control our lives as monks.”

The baking schedule fits into the spiritual lifestyle of Fr. Moses and the other monks, who spend between three and four hours a day in community prayer, offer spiritual direction to guests and assist with retreats.

The monks host a bake sale on the last Saturday of each month. “We have people who come each month from as far away as Milwaukee and Green Bay, though the bulk of our supporters are from the village and surrounding area,” said Fr. Moses.

The menu each month includes 35 shepherd pies, 35 chicken pot pies, 30 fruit pies, 200 dozen cookies of assorted flavors, 75 cakes, about 30 quarts of chicken soup with homemade noodles, and — a crowd favorite — about 25 New York-style pizzas.

The monastery’s full menu is listed on their website and Fr. Moses highly recommends pre-ordering because items sell out fast.

“I’m very thankful to God for giving me the talent of working with food to help in the support of the monastery,” added Fr. Moses.

  • This community is vibrant and traditional- we miss them in California!