The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What am I in for?

  • Pin It
hobbes557's picture
hobbes557

What am I in for?

Hi.  I'm relatively new to this forum.  I've been lurking around and reading stuff but I've only really posted once.  I'm a nearly post-grad student at a major university in Columbus, Oh (guess which one) and I've recently made a drastic career change. 

I've worked as a caller and then supervisor at a telemarketing call-center for four years, but during much of that time I've dreamed of being a baker.  I'm not sure how this got stuck in my head, seeing as I majored in philosophy with the intention of going to law school.  I've been trying my hardest to get out of my call center job and follow my dream, and now it's actually happening.  I've accepted a job as the night baker at a prominent artisan bakery in the area.

I should start by saying that I have absolutely no real bakery experience except for what I've done at home, and even then there isn't a whole lot.  I read baking books like it's my job (I guess it is now) and understand a lot of the principles, but I don't have a lot of practical experience.  Thankfully, my employer understands this and hired me more for my passion for the chance to do this kind of work rather than my qualifications.  Still, I find myself very nervous about performing adequately with this job.  The first month is a training period where I'll learn the work and adjust myself to the hours, and after that, I'm on my own.

I've been told my job as the night baker will be heavily slanted towards shaping and baking, with a little mixing but very little measuring.  The bakery staff is split into bread and pastry, so my share of things is exclusively bread.  The hours are Tues-Thursday 2am to 9am, and Friday 10pm to 11am.  Their bread offerings generally limited to baguettes and demi-baguettes, rustic french loaves, pain de campagne, country italian boules, a light sourdough and a 7-grain whole wheat boule.  They also do a braided challah on Fridays.  Everything is hand-shaped and baked dark and crusty.   

While I'm really excited about having a job where I'm going to be doing what I want to do, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty anxious about the kind of change I'm going to be making.  I mean, I'm going from a job where I work 5 hours shifts in the afternoon where I do very little in general, to a job where I have to wake up at midnight doing work my employer assured me will result in rapid weight-loss.  So I'm hoping that any of the professional bakers on this forum will read this and maybe give me a few tips.  Is a month enough time to gain enough skill to be producing a half dozen varieties of bread by myself?  How long does it take for one's body to adjust to working nights?  What do you do with yourself on the nights you have off, considering there isn't a whole lot open at 3 am?  Anything you feel may be useful to a brand new member of the baking industry, I want to hear. 

Eli's picture
Eli

I can kick out 10 loaves a day that isn't much and it is a hobby for now. However, I wish to you congratulate you! It seems you went after what you want and now you have it. The rest is downhill! Your passion will keep you in the bakery on the off days. I wish I could offer some advice but please let us know how it works out. Keep a journal and you will be amazed at what you learn.


E

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

As a nurse I know that working at night can be hard on your system.  If you are young you can probably get away with it for a while but you still need to keep yourself on a schedule.  Your friends might think that you have the day off, but please make sure to get enough sleep during the day - even if it seems weird.

Good for you for taking a chance on something that you love.  This experience will allow you to learn on someone elses dime - get all you can out of it and dont be afraid to fail.  The person who hired you knows that you are new at this and he does not expect you to be perfect - dont expect it of yourself either.

Best of luck.

www.thebraidedloaf.com

mcs's picture
mcs

 ...for someone new to baking.   During your training period, try to pay attention to as much as you can, especially to the shaping and proofing.  You don't want to have to learn that by trial and error when you're on your own.  Ask if you can run the ovens or whatever so you have a chance to learn (and screw up) with someone watching so they can guide you.  Have them watch you shaping so they can tell you how to improve.  Timing is everything with baking and a lot of the subtle nuances you won't pick up on unless you're doing it yourself.  Maybe if you have an index card in your pocket you can jot a note or two to yourself during slow time to make reminders. 
As far as the sleep schedule goes, it'll be exhausting so you'll need to sleep soundly.  Being new to it, if you're tired, your judgement will be affected.  With those hours, I'd probably sleep after work, then take a nap sometime before work.  Since your timing won't jive with most of the working world, sometimes it's easier to get 5 hours here and 1.5 hours there, rather than all of it in one shot.  Maybe get very dark shades for your bedroom window and something for white noise (fan, heater, a/c) so when you sleep you won't have any problems.
I think it's most important to get in deep as much as you can when you have a supervisor, so when you have to go solo, you've essentially already done it.

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

rxcsyrus's picture
rxcsyrus

rxscyrus

well im really new to this forum and just joined today on the loaf but ive been working in a bakery for 5 yrs already and i started as a delivery driver and have worked my way pretty high up there all i can say is dont be nervous just relax and pay close attention take as many notes as possible. wether it be writing it down or just plain memorizing it but trust me it can be a bit. i was pretty overwhelmed when i first started mixing shaping and baking all at the same time but you gotta give yourself some time to work into your bakeries routine. on the sleep note maybe giving yourself a physical activitie to wear yourself down so you can sleep when you need to and it will help you adjust to your new schedule. trust me ive had to change shift/productions schedules out of the blue but with a little time and effort youll get it. well goos luck. btw i just got home from work about 5am so its time for me to wind down.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I have a bakery that I run out of my home.  Because I am also a mother of three, I bake late at night rather than overnight.  So I can't offer much help in that arena, but how I can help is this: When I started out, I felt entirely in over my head and there were so many days that I wanted to quit.  There were so many times that my heart would sink as I witnessed perfectly good loaves overproofing as the oven was still full of the previous batch, or being unable to attend to two different batches of dough that both needed to be shaped RIGHT NOW, or seeing a batch of bread burst out unevenly because of underproofing.  I didn't have anyone to guide me; I was on my own.  But I learned little by little, and occasionally I'd have a great leap forward in my understanding that left me feeling ecstatic.  Now that I am able to produce batch after batch of beautiful loaves I feel so proud of how far I've come.  So there will probably be times that you too want to quit, or are dizzy with fatigue, but hang in there!  You'll be proud of yourself!  We'll be proud of you too here!

SOL

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

SOL

Although you were responding to the original post, it was as if you were speaking to me directly.  I too am a mother of three and starting a bakery out of my home.  I have just reached the point where I am wondering if it is all worth it.  I am also a student and a nurse and feel like something has to give, but I really do not want it to be the baking that gets put on the back burner.  Your words realy inspired me.  It is so nice to hear of someone who has been in the same place and came out the other side.  I would love to hear more about how you manage.

Sharon

sharon@thebraidedloaf.com

www.thebraidedloaf.com

syllymom's picture
syllymom

SOL and Sharon,

I find both your posts inspiring.  I like baking bread and have wondered how to possible start a small business as I'm currently a SAHM.  I'm scared to try but I also don't know how or where to start.  I have three kids (only one in school so far) and I'm trying ot think how to make it work.  Do you have to get your kitchen "certified" or do you just bake for family and friends mainly?  Do you bake for selling every day or just one or two days?

Curious and wonder how to start,

Sylvia

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

Sylvia-

The county that I live in will not certify a home kitchen.  I am in the process of getting my safe serve certification which will allow me to rent kitchen space, which will allow me to apply for a business licence.  When I started looking at all the things (and money) required to be a legit business I almost didn't bother because I just didnt know where to start.  One of my friends said "make some lables, buy some pretty ribbon and sell your bread to everyone you know".  So I did - and two months later I am selling bread on a regular basis to friends of friends who have heard of me through the grape vine (I tell them when my "baking days" are so that I only bake Thursdays and Fridays).  My plan is to have a licence by the spring so I can sell at the Farmer's Market and then see where it goes from there. So far it has worked well with being able to schedule bread around my "mom duties" - but it does depend on how much your kids will let you hang out in the kitchen.  Feel free to contact me through my web site.

Sharon

www.thebraidedloaf.com

Bakersdozen's picture
Bakersdozen

Once you have your safe serve certification, how do you find a kitchen space to rent?  I only bake for my family. I live in CT where I can not bake in my kitchen and sell.  I would love to one day bake for non-family members.

Theresa

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

I did some searching on google & Craigs List.  There are some national companies like Open Kitchen that do nothing but rent kitchen space, and other locals that do catering a few days a week but pay their rent by renting out space on the off days.  Around here the going rate is about $35 an hour for space and use of ovens and equipment.  In some areas you can also rent a church kitchen that has been certified - and those are often cheeper or free if you can convince your own church to let you cook in return for some free products.  For me the only profit that I make would go down the drain paying for space since so much of baking is letting it rise.  I am not sure how to work that part out.

Good luck.

Sharon

www.thebraidedloaf.com

Eli's picture
Eli

Sharon, I had your same question about the sit and rise. Especially with sourdough. I was wondering what you would do once you mixed it and did a bulk ferment. A levain bread would cost you 35.00hr x 5 hours 175.00 plus two hour proof, your looking at a 220. dollar loaf! LOL that would be one to keep

Any thoughts how to work out that logistical problem, anyone?

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hi Sylvia:

I too was a full-time mom before I got started.  I started with just the equipment I had and bought a bit of packaging and labels.  My teeny town had a farmers' market at the end of my block, so I participated in that.  It went over very well, so I felt safe to invest some real money in my business.  The next year, I sold at a larger market, and it went over very well, and this year has gone even better than that, the previous one.  If you happen to live in Va as I do, the rules are ridiculously easy to follow, and no inspection of even a home kitchen is required, although some markets (like mine) require you to have an inspection and because I wholesale as well, I need an inspection.  I don't know if I would have gotten this far if I had to rent a kitchen.  My kids just hang out while I'm baking (4 days a week currently but that fluxuates with the season) and I try to find something fun to do with them on Saturdays after I've finished with the market.  A farmers' market is ideal to start out with: there's little overhead, you can set out samples for people to try, you personally can be there to help sell your bread, and people come expecting to pay more for higher quality.  I'm selling at a grocery as well, but I think people are much more cost-conscious when buying at a grocery than a farmers' market.  The downside to a f-market is that the kids are out of school when you're at your busiest, but there are downsides to everything, I suppose.   Since you're not having to work around a bake schedule or a job away from the home right now, my advice is to prepare now for the future!  It's difficult to be able to fix problems with a formula or work on developing a new bread when you're also having to bake to sell.  When I think about all the time I had before I started this that I could have put to good use...!

SOL

spongedaddy's picture
spongedaddy

What a terrific thread! Thanks to all.

To the initial poster/new baker: They don't call it the graveyard shift for nothing. As someone who has worked it, you will feel like you're dead for a while. It is extremely hard on the body and you never really get used to it. Take all the advice given above -- sleep will forcefully become your main priority next to your job. Despite the physical demands of working in a bakery (btw, I envy you), I suggest you develop some exercise routine. Pick something simple like running or yoga (or both -- they go good together). This helped me both feel more like a "normal" person and adjust to my schedule better.

As for your days off, I found using my "Friday" as a normal-person day (perhaps taking a nap in the afternoon) so that I could hang out with friends or family or catch up on TV or movies worked well. Continuing this through the next day is possible, but I wouldn't get too far away from your working schedule.

Don't be nervous about your duties. You're extremely fortunate to a.) work in an artisan bakery and b.) have an employer who appreciates and understands your passion. Trust yourself, work hard, and you'll be fine.

To SOL and Sharon: Thank you for your inspiration. I am researching what is needed locally to start selling breads and pastries at the two farmer's markets in my area (Winter Park, FL). I think I have to work out of a licensed kitchen, but am not positive. 

 

Tom