The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread School

cgcrago's picture

Bread School

What follows is a likely, yet entirely hypothetical future.

I have been an underemployed and unemployed financial research editor since early December. I live in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country (Ohio). For the most part, all I have done since getting laid off from my job at a think tank is cook and bake. Given the enjoyment I've had and the lack of other opportunity here, I have made the decision to attend bread school, most likely the Art of International Bread Baking program at the FCI in Manhattan, which is convenient to my budget (barely) and schedule (very).

I'm hoping to accomplish the following:

  1. Learn to actually make something, unlike in my fomer career as a desk jockey.
  2. Have a true career to fall back on should the economy collapse further.
  3. Make and eat a LOT of awesome bread.
  4. Do something I actually enjoy.
  5. Do something that makes others happy.
  6. Wear shorts and a t-shirt to work at 2:00 am.
  7. Get the hell out of Ohio.
  8. Open my own bakery after some period of apprenticeship.

If everything works out and I begin this fall, I will be blogging and photographing the entirety of the experience. I was just wondering if the readership of TFL would be interested in following me through the program and a new career as a professional baker.

What would the readership of TFL like to know about the experience?  I really feel that this would be a great opportunity to share with such an involved community of bread heads and the blogging would be mostly for you, not me. Unless, of course, someone would like to pay me for it :) Obviously, I can share techniques, recipes, tricks, and anecdotes, but is there anything you would like to know specifically?


cake diva's picture
cake diva


I would be interested in the the daily grind of schooling, and the recipes and insights of course.  Would be cool to see pictures!  I love pictures of bread.

Hah!  I feel for you.  I'm in the same boat, except that your #7 is my #1!  And I'll be a happier man if all memories of the last 7 years were to be erased from my consciousness.  Ughhh!

Good luck and listen to your heart!

dghdctr's picture

I've recently been a bread instructor myself.

I also live in Ohio.  Don't want to leave it, but it's getting hard to stay.

Be careful before committing yourself to a lot of debt by going to school.  If you've already worked a few months in a bakery and are convinced you'd like to make a career of it, I'd say you may be making the right move.   If you've never done the work, there's no sense paying somebody else to find out if you even want to do it.  Don't take your experiences of baking at home into consideration -- working at baking and depending upon it to pay your bills is different than having it as a hobby.

Good luck with whatever you decide, but be certain that baking is what you want to do (and manage) before laying out the bucks.

celestica's picture

I agree with dghdctr about having work experience before going to school, at least 6 months, and I would say a year is better, long enough for the initial thrill to wear off.  I loved cooking and imagined becoming a chef, I found one with papers to supervise me and clocked in many hours towards my apprencticeship.  The day before I was to start classroom instruction I was overwhelmed by a tsunami of previously repressed boredom and frustration, quit my job and found work in a totally unrelated field, the social services. 

I loved recipe development, cooking, testing, tasting, reading about food, learning new techniques, the fast pace....But I was feeling intellectually bored, isolated, tired (it's very demanding physically), and it bothered me that I never got to talk to the people eating my food. 

I still love cooking and baking but being paid to do it just sucked the joy and excitement out of it. 

CAVEAT: I'm not saying this is going to happen to you when you work in a bakery, but it would be good to find out what the paid experience is like (as well as the potential profit margins if you want to eventually open your own place) before going to school. 

And yes, I would be very interested in reading your blog and seeing pictures!  Best of luck.





Pimple's picture

I would be interested to know the extend of what you learn. The name of the school says it's bread baking, but what kinds of bread? Do you also learn to bake any kind of cakes, pastries etc.?

I also wonder what a day's work in one of your bakeries is like? What kind of things are done when and such :)

rainwater's picture

I worked as a chef/cook for about 35 years.  I worked with many who had gone to culinary school.  I didn't see much advantage to the culinary graduates, and sometimes they were at a disadvantage because I learned everything "on the job" instead of the classroom.  Use the internet to network and find a job working in a bakery that bakes the kind of bread you want to bake.....You may not make much money as a starter, but making a little is better than paying a lot to learn.  Plus, what you learn on the job is usually about 100% applicable. 

althetrainer's picture

that going to culinary school is an exciting though but that doesn't necessary give you the advantage of better skills and experience.  A lot of famous chefs actually acquired their skills from real working experience.

When I was young kid I thought I wanted to work in a local bakery because I loved to bake.  My mom thought I was crazy and told me to go into the bake room to have a look.  I was lucky and got a tour for a day.  I remember the heat of the bake room, the looks on those bakers face, and the extremely high intensity... it was just too overwhelming to me.  Then I realized if I took on a job in the bake room where I could get some real hands on experience I would have to get up at 4 a.m. every day to work.  At 17 getting up at 4 in the morning every day was not a very pleasing though so I gave up the idea.

Things could be very different now but I am glad that I didn't take on the job when I was 17.  Now that I am 47 and I enjoy being a home baker baking for pleasure without pressure.  Cooking has always been my line of therapy so I wouldn't want to ruin that one thing that has many times saved my sanity under stressful periods. 

I have a nephew who went to culinary school and graduated but couldn't find a job that he enjoyed.  He too, loved cooking but once he had to do that for money in a very high stress environment he realized it was not something for him.  He ended up working in some computer company selling software on the phone.

But if you do go for it, best wishes to your future career.

Jw's picture

I would like to know how you look at these goals after a few months. Can't you get a job in Ohio and try this professional baking out first? 

Can let us know what you learn each week or so (and I don't mean just about bread). 

Good luck. Jw.

Janknitz's picture

You might be able to find a more affordable bread program at a junior college or public college or university.  It doesn't have to be "local" meaning your town in Ohio, just a small institution anywhere that has an affordable public education program.  And there might be more financial aid available for that too.

Check out this blog (Flour Girl) for someone in similar circumstances.  See especially her early posts where she talks about what she is doing and why.   She found a program at her local junior college and it sounds like she is getting a very good education out of it.  My own local junior college has a wonderful program with it's own retail bakery and cafe for real life experience. 

Whatever you decide, I hope you do blog about it.  It's a vicarious pleasure to read about  others' experiences.  If you do your own blog and permit advertising on it, the blog may at least be able to pay its own way.