He earned a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University, where he played infield (second base) for the Spartans baseball team. He served in the US Army during World War II and is the owner of a handful of patents. He even had a hand in setting a world record.

According to the Baking Hall of Fame, however, Joseph M. Day’s most notable moments occurred during his decades-long career in the baking industry, where he earned his reputation as an “oven man.” Mr. Day, who died in 2003, is being inducted as a member of the class of 2023.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1933, Mr. Day spent six years at Baker Perkins before joining American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in New Haven, Conn., as chief engineer of the oven division. Here he designed and patented a diathermic tray oven to enhance balanced oven heat transfer and increase oven thermal efficiency. He left AMF in 1941 to join the war effort and served as chief radar officer in the 1st Army/49th Brigade until the end of the conflict in 1945.

He returned to AMF for four years before leaving to form the Joseph M. Day Co., which today does business as Banner-Day. It was here where Mr. Day earned his nickname. In 1959, he developed, marketed and manufactured impedance electric pipe heating systems for viscous fluids used in the food process and other industries. Over the years, his company became the first to develop and refine, market and manufacture direct-spark ignition (DSI) systems to automate and enhance the safety of direct gas-fired tunnel and tray ovens. In addition, he helped develop and patent the flame rectification igniter to enhance the reliability of DSI systems.

 In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Mr. Day also contributed to helping set a world record. It was his oven design that was used by Chef Pierre Bakeries (now Sara Lee) in Traverse City, Mich., to bake the world’s largest cherry pie. The pie, which weighed 28,350 lbs and measured 17 feet, 6 inches in diameter, found its way into the Guinness Book of World Records in July 1987.

Mr. Day “loved the baking process, oven design, controls and, inherently, combustion,” said Joseph P. Day, Mr. Day’s son, in a recommendation letter submitted to the Baking Hall of Fame selection committee. “He was equally adept with both indirect and direct gas-fired ovens as well as gas and oil firing. Comfortable in varying business environments, whether in an engineering department or in the field with customers, he had a well-deserved reputation of being able to get the job done.”

With a long list of personal and professional accomplishments, the “oven man’s” time has finally arrived; Joseph M. Day is now a member of the Baking Hall of Fame.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on the Baking Hall of Fame, click here.