The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tales from the bakery...

Bart's picture

Tales from the bakery...

So I am working at the bakery as I mentioned in a previous posting. I love it. Because the illness of the master baker (he was diagnosted with cancer) I work there 3 days instead of two. I slowly becoming better in shaping bread at a decent speed. Speed seems to be the thing that is the hardest to learn. I am so slow at certain things I need to do...

Is there someting I don't like? Yes there is. We don't get time to eat! I don't know if it is common, but in most of the bakeries I was an intern or worked you need to eat while working. Yesterday my boss made a comment because I took a quick bite out of my sandwich (which took like two seconds, quickly swallowing it down my throat) instead of dusting the loaves with flour ready for final proofing.

I admit, I should have taken a bite when those where finished, my bad, but the comment he gave me totally got me pissed! He was like : "Do you need a table and a chair too? Otherwise I'll give you one!" I think that was pretty unfair to say that, he did have a point , I should not have eaten while the loaves were not finished yet. But we never ever get time off to eat at all! So... I thought that was not correct at all to say that. Oh well, getting older my skin gets thicker and I seriously do not care at all. I will take a bite next time after the loaves are finished, so it won't happen again. But on the other hand this illustrates how working conditions in a bakery are sometimes not so great...

I still have a lot of respect for my boss though. He is the puppet master, control freak, he's the boss, he controls it all, everything, 1000 things at once. I hope to gain his knowledge someday.

I still love working there though...

mcs's picture


It doesn't appear that you were looking for comments, but I guess you'll get one anyway...

As your speed increases, you'll find little breaks of time (in between jobs) that don't exist right now. He may be a little frustrated watching you working at a 'slow' pace and so he's getting a little bit snappy. Maybe it's just his personality. Maybe he was just trying to get a reaction out of you.
Pick an area that you are 'the worst at' and ask him to show you how to do it, "Would you mind showing me how you make rolls? I can't seem to get them as tight as they should be...". He may just blow you off, but it's worth a shot, and at least you're showing him that you're acknowledging that you're having a tough time and 'working slow'.
I don't know how long your shift is, but it may be best to have small snacks that you can eat 'on the move', rather than a full sandwich.
Hang in there.


Bart's picture


first of all thanks a lot for the feedback. Any feedback I always appreciate. The boss himself is a nervous type of guy that makes often sounds, saying the same things over and over again (like for instance when we roll the proofing cart into the proofing chamber he is always like "Push to the right, push to the right!" After hearing saying that a dozen times a day I already know that. He's also a bad communicator. His wife is much better at that.

Thanks for the advice. The boss is going to some rough times now because his master baker is seriously sick. The poor guy comes to work for some hours a day, with his medicin carrying in an external device that is connected into his veins. Needless to say he can't perform like when he's healthy. So I kinda understand the situation. The boss himself and his wife have already told me they are happy that I am there and am learning quickly.

All I was thinking he was over reacting and he could have said it in a different way. I can't help it, but I've seen this before when I was intern at several bakeries. I feel like we are lemons, squeezed till the last drop of juice and that still is not enough. But hey, I learned something and I will make sure that it won't happen again. Bad timing from my part.

Things I am slow at are shaping loaves (I am slowly catching up though), shaping viennoiserie,... The boss has taught me nothing! The master baker does (he's a great teacher and also the pattisier learns me stuff.)

BTW how much does a baker make an hour in the States?

Thanks again for you reaction!



mcs's picture

I don't know if I've said this before, but my wife and I both enjoy your ilovebreadblog.

It sounds like your pattisier and master baker, although very sick, are both teaching you. As you said, if your boss is going through a rough time, it tends to magnify his 'overreacting'. If he doesn't know what he's doing (your boss) then I suppose it's best to stay out of his way.
The great thing about jobs like baking, is that even when personel issues rise, I found it possible to focus on kneading or shaping, or whatever, and get right back on task.

I suppose a baker's salary is very reflective of his experience and where he/she lives. Here in Montana, if you could make $10 an hour to start, I'd say that's OK. Fourteen years ago when I was a baker in VT, minumum wage was around $4, and I started at $7/hr working one of the night shifts.


Bart's picture

When I started doing night shifts I made $2 an hour, but that was like 10 years or so ago. Right now I make 13.8 bucks an hour which is not bad I think.

Mark, thanks a lot for the feedback about my blog, I am glad someone is enjoying it! 

Baking is one of the greatest things on earth!



AnnieT's picture

Bart, so glad to hear you like Dan Lepard's book. One of my favorite recipes is the one for White Thyme bread. I found the picholine olives and really liked the flavor, but my store hasn't had them since. I bought a jar of sun dried olives but by the time I have pitted them I think they will be a bit sparse. I agree - if you are adding fruit or nuts or olives, add plenty! A.

RFMonaco's picture


 After you've gotten a better job.....I would've told that idiot boss of yours where to stick it.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I bake bread at home, and sell it at two stores and also the Farmers' Market.  When I'm in the swing of thing, it is so hard to find time to eat!  Although I can hardly consider them food, I have a stock of protein bars for those times that I really need to eat something but can't afford the time.  I agree that it's hard; as soon as one bread has been tended to, another is waiting.  I also am a mother of 3, did I mention that? :)

nbicomputers's picture

eating are you out of your mind!!!

some of my bosses would tear me a new one if i was working with one piece of dough at a time.  i would be making 7 pound dough balls one in each hand. 

we had an semi auto dough divder that would cut the dough and round the 36 pieces into rolls and we whout take 3 or 4 at a time in each hand and put them on trays.  if i would take 1 in each hand BOY would i get it

welcome to my world.

Paddyscake's picture

need to lighten-up.....:  )

dmsnyder's picture

The trading of "war stories" is an established and culturally appropriate expression of comradarie. In this instance, we have a recognition of inter-generational continuity within the culture of the brotherhood of professional bakers. Guys do this, see?

holds99's picture


Sounds like your boss, having lost a key employee, may be under a great deal of pressure.  In addition to losing his head baker he may have other problems that you're unaware of that's driving his behavior patterns; financial, family, etc.  Sometimes people under pressure take their frustrations and anger out on the nearest person.  It's unfortunate, but that's the way it works sometimes.  Your job usually consumes at least half your waking hours so if you're unhappy at work that's not good.  However, if you love your work then try to find some way to communicate the problem you have to him.  If he's acting  the same way to the other employees then it most likely isn't about you, it's about him.  Hang in there and keep doing what you love.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

nbicomputers's picture

I did not mean to be mean. 

all i was saying is that i have been through the same thing he is going through.  All (well most) of the old time bakers were HARD bosses learning their trade by other even harder bosses

I might not agree with it but it is the realty of the baking world.  Like the child abuse circle the abused child grows up to be a abuser his or her self. 

it is the mindset of if I could take it so can you.  this along with the fact bakers are not teachers.  teaching is skill that is learned by studing many types of methodolgy and applying thouse methods.  since your boss was taught by other hard schooled bakers and without the advanced education in the skills required to correctly instruct, communcate and demonstrate baking skills he must call upon his past expirences to express him self and this is most likely the only way knows how to teach.

I personaly have never prevented a new baker from eating (on a break and in the proper place --see note--) but i have pushed them to their limits.  sometimes for the sake of learning and someimes (as is what appers this case) because it could not be helped.

if a shop needes to fill a five hundred loaf order the owner will push the bakers beyond there limits because the order needs to be done.   and the old timer will expect the new to suck it up and keep going simply because thats what they did,

sometimes if you realy want to learn the trade you will have to push your self beyond what you think you can do. 

In one of my very first jobs (i was realy green) I was THE BREAD MAN) exactly that man---me---just me. 

After the first few weeks (not even a month) i would go to work and get a list of how much bread was needed white pan, rye, pumpernicke, soft rolls hard rolls ,whole wheat and at least one special type of bread.   then the boss would go home or whatever and i would be locked in for the night.  well i mean i could leave but i am sure you know what i mean.

that was it

i was expected to mix all the doughs and get everything done by the time the store opened.  I would be moving as fast as i could with no time to even go to the bathroom but that was my world

it was what i wanted to do so i was mentaly and (at the time) physicaly prepaired to do it. i wanted to learn the trade so i did what i needed to to.

The raw facts is baking professionaly is a hard life and many new bakers are not prepaired to undergo the mental and phisical torture when learning which is why many new bakers that go into the trade don't make it past the first year of training.

You realy need to understand what the master baker went through to learn what he knows and if you can grow a tough and hard skin and make it to the point that you are going to open a bakery of your own then you can break the behavor patterns and treat the new lerner with respect and understanding. 

will you have to push them i would say yes because you will be under the same pressure that this owner is under now with his most important staff sick.  but maybe just maybe he will treat the new baker a little better.

and for the record i was paid fifteen dollers a day for all this work.

bart you also said that speed is the hardest thing to learn.  well my brother speed is not learned, speed comes with time do not try to learn to do something fast, 
try to learn how to do something well--- and the speed will come.

footnote is aganst public health laws to eat..drink. or smoke  on a production floor Or in a kitchen,  the health department does not want you putting your hands to your mouth and touching food that someone elce is going to eat.

ps i am realy trying to watch the typing.

Bart's picture

You are not allowed to eat, smoke on a production floor.  That law would not have to be violated if people who work at the bakery had their 30 minutes break.  There is also a law over here that sez that when you work 8 hours the boss needs to give an half hour break.... Today was a good day, the boss was not as stressed as early this week.  There was a lot of work, but only on third of breads to bake.  So definitely  less stress today.I did do some things on my own, I am getting more responsibility  each week.  Today was great! Thanks for the tip about the speed, I appreciate that a lot!ilovebreadblog

nbicomputers's picture

your welcome

NOW GO and get a good days sleep.

endinmaine's picture

Not knowing the state you live in , if you are working an 8 hour shift your boss he MUST give you 2-15 min breaks AND a 30 min lunch. Here is Massachusetts companies that have violated the law have been fined.

mcs's picture

I believe Bart is in Belgium.

Bart's picture

That is correct, I live in Belgium. ilovebreadblog