Monday, September 5, 2011

Talk to Someone Who Knows!

If you want to be a baker, and by professional I mean work in a commercial kitchen you need to talk to someone who knows! I can't stress this enough. Baking at home and baking as a profession are two completely different things.

I worked for a large grocery store chain when I was barely in my 20s (okay, this validates my experience in terms of years but also ages me!)so I got paid to learn to decorate cakes and bake in a commercial bakery. This was both good and bad. The good part is that I learned a lot and gained tons of real-life experience. The flip side of that is that I didn't always learn the proper way to do things. You see, working in a commercial bakery requires you meet some pretty rigorous volume standards. If my memory serves me, my manual required I decorate 90 single layer Black Forrest cakes (chocolate cake filled with cherries, iced in white buttercream icing with cherries on top. Dollops of icing around the edges and sides finished with chocolate cake crumbs) in one hour - yes, nine-zero! This particular grocery chain had a research team that determined if you did every step exactly as they had spelled out, it could be done. Well, maybe it could, but I never did 90 in one hour. However, in an attempt to try, I cut corners, worked in a mess, and certainly did not put my love of baking into those cakes!

Take the first step and go visit bakeries. Ask to speak with the baker, cake decorator, bakery manager, and bakery owner if it's a smaller shop. Ask them what they think the ups and downs are. How many hours a week do they work? Do they have to get up at 3 or 4 AM to start work? Finally, ask them if working as a baker is as much fun as it was when they did it "for fun." Talk to someone who knows, it's the first step and in my opinion, an important one.

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