The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I want to be a baker when I "grow up."

  • Pin It
Nothing77713's picture
Nothing77713

I want to be a baker when I "grow up."

Firt off, I apologize that this is definately a repeat topic, but I have a much wider question to ask than the many topics before, so I thought I'd give it a try.


 


I am currently a hotel and restaurant management undergrad student. I have another year and a half until I graduate. Recently, through my foodservice management class and some lab time in the university union's bakery, I have realized that my dream career is to own/operate my own bakery and cafe. I have been teaching myself to bake at home over the last few months through various websites(KA, The Fresh loaf, etc.) and baking books(I LOVE Peter Reinhart!). I understand the differences inherent in professional/home baking and I am well aware of the failure rate of small businesses, let alone restaurants, let alone bakeries(I am well on my way to a business degree).


My question to the professional bakers on this site is would you please give me any advice you care to give on how to start a career as a baker? I know I need professional training, but do I need to go through a full accredited culinary school, or would somewhere like SFBI professional program be sufficient? What schools/programs would you personally suggest?  And what about internships and apprenticeships? I have atleast four years before I can qualify for a government education grants and loans to attend any kind of baking school and would like to get my foot in the door asap to build up experience in the field. (In fact I need 800 hours of applicable hospitality experience in the next year before I can even get my degree). Would you suggest I beg my parents to pay for workshops and such while they're still supporting me(I know I am VERY lucky) if I can't get hired?


I have tried simply applying for any entry level positions in the few bakeries in my small college town, but in this economy they won't hire what they see on my application(very little experience in food service and college student(high turnover rate, bad attitude, etc.)). Do you have any suggestions on how to get hired in the first place? Should I ask to speak with a manager or baker directly(and waste their time)? Should I bring in an example of one of my own homebaked loaves to show I'm not entirely clueless?


Thankyou for reading my extremely long repeat post, and thankyou in advance for any advice. I would be tickled to death to get any advice at all to help me on my way, anything you care to tell me, regardless of if it relates to what I asked or not...

Arbyg's picture
Arbyg

You must get yourself in front of the head baker let him know your passion . Also you should be willing to do any job in bakery to start off. Where do u live maybe I can get you some refferals in Florida.

Nothing77713's picture
Nothing77713

Thankyou for the offer! But alas I am all the way across the country in Arizona. It is really sounding as though I need to speak with the head baker to get anything... I'm just so worried about being seen as an obnoxious interruption. I guess it all comes down to the higher the risk, the greater the reward.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi N77713, 


Here's an interesting interview you should listen to.  


Jeremy of Stir the Pots interviewed Jeffrey Hamelman, Certified Master Baker, Director of Baking Education at King Arthur Flour, etc., etc., etc.  A professional baker of many accomplishments.  If you love baking and have lots of bread books, you probably have his Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.  If you don't have it, you should get it and study his preface at page xiii, read his epilogue at page 391, then study the rest of the book.  You'll learn quite a bit.


Anyway, Mr. Hamelman talks about how he got into baking and how he had to perservere to convince the owner of a German bakery to hire him.  Listening to him will give you some idea about the baker's life.


For what it's worth, the SFBI professional program is 18 weeks long, takes only 16 students, and the tuition is $16,000 if paid in cash.  It's $17K+ if financed.


You might check out the professional classes at the King Arthur Baking Education Center.  You can spend a week being taught by Jeffrey Hamelman for about a thousand bucks - but book early since his classes sell out early.  Could be a fun summer vacation break.


I don't know where you go to school, but if you have a particular bakery in your area you'd like to work at - keep perservering.  If it's a good bakery that makes its own high quality bread from scratch (none of that parbaked stuff), you'd have nothing to lose by approaching the person who makes the hiring decisions.


You could even go as far as offering an hour or two of your services free.  You'd get assigned to do scut work, but at least you'd have a foot in the door.


I hope you succeed and grow in your passion.

Nothing77713's picture
Nothing77713

That was definately an interesting interview. The King Arthur classes sound really cool, I just have to find a way to get to and stay in Vermont for a week.


I understand about the costs of SFBI, but I had heard wonderful things about it from the baker in the school bakery, so I was really wondering if it was worth trying to find a way to pay for it.(and I love SanFran as a side benefit)


I do have a bakery in town in mind... I hope he/she will talk to me. I'm totally willing to work for the ability to learn instead of a paycheck...

SourdoughBaker's picture
SourdoughBaker

Hi.


Here's a story about how not to get into the baking business. Enjoy...


http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/stories/the-illegal-bakery.html


Cheers!

The Whole Grain's picture
The Whole Grain

I don't know anything about how to become a baker, but this advice is aplicable for any young applicant in any trade/profession.


My experience is that it is vital to get your foot in the door.


Apply! It will not get you the qualifications you need to become a professional baker, but it will certainly help you reach your goal.


Just speak to the manager/owner -ask the staff when he will be in and what is the best time to meet him-, tell him why you want to work for him and not the other bakery in town, tell him your very keen to learn and work in order to reach your goal, offer to work a couple of hours before college for a couple of days per week or so, or offer to work on Saturdays. (Maybe unpaid in the first couple of weeks as a trial, then if everyone is happy you get paid per hour)


Don't send a paper resume cause that will likely get filed in the bin immediately. An employer will want to see the applicant in person, and see that he is going that extra mile. Anyone can send 30 resume's from their home, sitting on their lazy butt.


Any work experience you gain at this stage will look great on your resume/CV when you start applying for future jobs. Having a job in the field of your interest  now will make you stand out compared to your classmates.


Having been young myself, I know that students study hard but also party hard. So if you do get the job, don't forget your commitments.


Regarding courses/workshops: I guess it's not essential but could be fun and helpful. Also looks good on the resume.


Speak to the manager, don't be afraid -lots to gain, little to lose-


Mommy will stop lecturing now.


Good luck!


Dr Whole Grain

zusana's picture
zusana

Apply. In my experience, you don't need classes or a degree, you just need the willingness to start at the bottom, work your way up and learn everything you can along the way. Classes don't necessarily mean anything to many bakery owners (unless they're familiar with the ones you've taken) because school doesn't necessarily mean you got enough real world experience. If you find a good bakery with bakers interested in learning and teaching, you can learn everything you need to know on the job.


Start at the bakery in your town or near it that makes the best bread. If they're really focused on bread, the bakers there may have ties to other places in other cities and maybe even other countries. You can work your way up job to job, apprenticeship to apprenticeship. If the people in your town can't help you, make your own contacts online.


I started out working behind the counter at a local bakery making espresso and ringing up pastries :) From there I went to a cake shift, a driver shift, and finally to bread and pastry. I've boiled bagels, washed dishes, recorded the night's deposit, placated angry customers and all sorts of other things besides baking bread and it's taught me a lot about the business. I'm not experienced enough to run my own place, but I expect someone more focused than I am wouldn't have much trouble getting to that point. Your management training would help you a lot with that, I'm sure.


Whatever you do, good luck :) The world needs more bakers!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

A series of posts about one baker's launch of a new bakery.  It's a different experience than you are looking for, but contains some interesting vignettes of a baker's experience.


Paul

BakerBen's picture
BakerBen

Hello, 


Maybe really a couple of more things not heard yet:


- DON"T WORRY ABOUT FAILING until you have at least given it a try - maybe even several tries.


- Get some real world experience first before you invest in school/workshops - baking bread professsionally is really hard work.  Make sure you can work 10+ hour shift starting at 11:30PM and handle lifting and speed of a production artisan bakery.


- If you really want to work at a specific bakery and you get turned down the first time you talk/interview go back in a couple of weeks and check back ... keep checking back until they call the police or give you a chance - just kidding on police thing.  And working for free is not unrealistic - I did it for about six weeks at 20 hours a week.  I justified it by telling myself that I am willing to pay for a class/workshop to learn so why should I expect the bakery owner to teach me for free.


- Work as hard as you can and learn as much as you can ... don't have to be told twice how to do things OR maybe how things are done at that bakery.  I have worked at three different bakeries and they were ALL three different - the way kneading was done, shaping, etc.  What you learn is like I was told in culinary school - "there is only one Chef in a kitchen and if you are not him/her do what they tell you ...".   Most bakers are nicer than that but be prepared.


- Don't expect to be a baker in a month or two ... there is a lot to learn that only comes by doing and with experience over time.


Good luck and best wishes for a long and happy career as a baker.


Ben

Lepain1111's picture
Lepain1111

Hey! so i know you posted this quite a long time ago but I am in the exact same boat, I just switched to hospitality management and i have two years of school left. I've decided that cooking and baking are something i would like to pursue bc I hope to one day have my my own restaurant or manage a restaurant. In order to accomplish this I would like to have some culinary/baking experience to do it, but going through culinary school is too expensive and so far i've heard that you truly only learn once you get in and do it yourself sort of thing. Anyway, i've conteplated just going in to a bakery and asking them to let me just do any work for free on weekends when i don't have school because all i want to do is learn anything and be around this atmosphere in hopes of just absorbing any knowledge and experience. Where you able to be successful doing this? what suggestions do you have??

 

Any help would be helpful and thanks for reading this long post!