The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advice..

localfruitandveg's picture
localfruitandveg

Advice..

This might seem like a weird place to vent a bit, but I'm going to give it a go.  I feel stuck.  I'm a 26 year old man who feels as though any opportunity has passed him by.  I've been working steady as a painter for the last 5 years, all the while growing more and more passionate about baking.  i bake as much as my schedule, and my budget, allows me to - and I love it.  My question is what do I do?  I went to almost every bakery in my hometown (Omaha,NE) and one of the managers (Wheatfields) actually said that I was too old to teach, the others either weren't interested or weren't hiring.  I never felt more worthless in my life.  Even though I knew the man at Wheatfields was wrong, it left me feeling very despondent, and extremely skeptical as to whether or not a career in baking was really for me.  Maybe the cards were just dealt differently.  

What's your advice?  For those of you that are bakers out there, or who own bakeries, what are you looking for?  Is a four-year degree what makes or breaks it?  Is it passion?  Is it trainability? Perception? Personality? I feel as though I'm trying as hard as I possibly can to really make a go at learning more and more about the art of bread, but I'm doing it alone.  A no one will take a chance on me.  

Again, this really does sound like a confessional, I apologize.  I figure who better to ask than people who are as passionate about bread as I!  Really, any advice at all would be appreciated.  The main question, really, is would spending $20,000 on an education just to have a degree in baking be worth it?  

 Thanks everyone

 Localfruitandveg 

maxamilliankolbe's picture
maxamilliankolbe

I'm in Omaha area, as well.  Have you tried both Wheatfields locations?  I assume you tried the one in Omaha, but there is another location in Papillion at the Shadowlake Town Center.  Perhaps you would get a different response there.  Just to cover bases, you tried inquiring at Great Harvest Bread Co. and the local Paneras to see if they need early morning bakers?

localfruitandveg's picture
localfruitandveg

The second Wheatflelds is managed by the same man.  It was a sort of second blow to hear that from him.  Great Harvest Bread said they weren't looking for anyone, but that they would keep my app on file.  And I haven't had any luck with three of the Panera's.  Like I said....losing hope here.  I even went to Hy-Vee and got as far as an actual interview, but when they never called me back; even after I called them to check on the status.  I don't think I look funny.  I got rid of my hunchback a few months ago, so I'm not sure what it is that's keeping someone from hiring me.

Thanks for your help 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In your shoes, I'd join the Bread Baker's Guild of America.  They have a great mailing list.  And their web page and newsletter have job announcements.  Get on the list.  Impress people with your questions and how well you learn... not to mention your passion.  Send notes to people off list.  Ask the bakers there for job hunting tips.

 

Who did you talk to at Wheatfields?  The guy who is at the Wheatfields in Lawrence Kansas is a regular on the mailing list.

 

Have you developed a passion for some styles of bread?  If so, are the bakeries you are looking for baking that sort of bread?  In painting - are you doing walls or portraits?  There's nothing wrong with either, but even through there some minor simularities in the tools, they aren't the same.  Even withing an area, there are differences.  If Picasso is your hero, you don't go to the local portrait studio to crank 'em out.

Next, if you can, go to school.  SFBI has excellent classes and they do job placement.  There are many other schools, but I'd suggest ones that specialize in baking.  In most culinary schools baking is the red-headed orphan step-child.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

boshane's picture
boshane

I'm a manager at a bakery right now, and although we don't generally have a stack of resumes to look through for new bakers, I do have a bit of experience in terms of what to look for for new bakers.


I'm not trying to make you feel better, but honestly-- Passion. I've gone through 5 or 6 terrible bakers who didn't care about feeding the starters, taking care of the equipment, or what their bread looked like. They were our worst  bakers.


I have a new baker who is over 40 years old, and who had never touched raw dough in his career as a line cook and kitchen manager. He's passionate about his shift, he works well alone, and he's the best guy we've hired in a long time.


Just keep trying. There aren't many people who are actually passionate about baking in our industry. Eventually you'll find a manager who appreciates what you can bring to the table.


I had a similar situation as you when getting into this (food) industry. My sous chef told me I wasn't "edgy" enough and I wouldn't make it as a cook. I ran into others who gave similar opinions, but eventually came to realize that there's a lot of people in the food industry who are simply jaded and always trying to cover up feelings of inadequacies. It's not a trademark of the food industry but it certainly seems to be amplified for some reason.


Oh yeah, you won't make as much money if you give up painting :) You probably realized that already.

AW's picture
AW

...why you are pursuing baking. I'm out of work and through all the confusion and disappointment I try to remind myself why I love to do what I do and how I've reached this point. I have surrounded myself with people who love and support me and have distanced myself from those who doubt why I cannot find work. Those who love you will help you if you ask for their help. Since you are a creative person, try to think about how you will show your potential employer your passion. Do you send them a simple note that shows speaks to them? I had an interview with a bakery and they were blow away by the fact that I brought sable to my interview. They remembered the cookies, loved them, and suggested I apply for an upcoming pastry chef position. Maybe something will come of it, maybe not, but at least I know I did something worth doing that someone appreciated. I wish you all the very best fortunes in pursuing your passion. -AW

AW's picture
AW

...why you are pursuing baking. I'm out of work and through all the confusion and disappointment I try to remind myself why I love to do what I do and how I've reached this point. I have surrounded myself with people who love and support me and have distanced myself from those who doubt why I cannot find work. Those who love you will help you if you ask for their help. Since you are a creative person, try to think about how you will show your potential employer your passion. Do you send them a simple note that shows speaks to them? I had an interview with a bakery and they were blow away by the fact that I brought sable to my interview. They remembered the cookies, loved them, and suggested I apply for an upcoming pastry chef position. Maybe something will come of it, maybe not, but at least I know I did something worth doing that someone appreciated. I wish you all the very best fortunes in pursuing your passion. -AW

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Every successful person in any field met with negativity on their way up, and they didn't ignore it! It fueled their desire further, gave them even more determination to prove they can.


26 and feel every opportunity has passed you by??? Why I oughta....... ; D


You're a young MAN, with all the best opportunities ahead of you! I would suggest you take a deep breath and realize that true passion, in combination with a keen sense of perfectionism, will eventually get you where you want to go. I mention perfectionism, because I haven't met many employers who can resist someone who can pay attention to details. All employers, regardless of industry, seek a clone of themselves. Someone who cares about the business as if it were their own, and most importantly, will listen to the way the owner wants things done and do it that way, every time. Employers tire of people who think they know the business better, and have to constantly keep being told how the owner wants it done.


Ok, so anyways, you wanted ideas of what makes an employee desireable, but you are in a real hurry to get accepted and able to start showing your abilities and loyalty. That's a tough one, I do feel for you there... My advice would be, while you are still learning, searching and networking in the food industry, don't be afraid to take a job doing something else - anything else! It is extremely important that you don't let your resume start going stale. I would also visit every ma and pop bakery in your metro area. There has to be a ton of them! Be creative in your approach and don't act desperate.


Example: you walk into a small shop and notice the manager or owner is lurking around. Scan the counter for an item you know you'll like, and buy one. Take a bite and savor it a little.


You to employee: These are fantastic! Is that the manager over there?


Emplyee: Yes, her name is Marie.


You: Can I speak with her?


(Marie comes over)


Marie: Yes, can I help you?


You: Well yes.. in fact... I was wondering. Well, first off, these [items] are just the best I've had! Just fantastic!


Marie: Why thank you! Glad you enjoy them.


You: Yes, so well I was wondering... if I was an employee here, would I get an employee discount on these? [laugh] Cuz I could probably live off of these!


Marie: [laughs with you] Yes, well normally our employees prefer money, but we're open to negotiate!


See, the point is to be personable. You just showed that manager that you aren't shy and you have a good sense of humor. That's good for dealing with customers. Breaking the ice, it's called.. because nothing is more cold than picking up an app and dropping it off without any interaction. If you end up applying at this bakery, you have already created a mini-bond with Marie. I guarantee if they are slightly interested in extra help, you are going to get a very good interview.


These are tough times economically. Remember that, and take your rejections with a grain of salt. It's my opinion that, even if things get slightly worse, they are going to level out and I seriously doubt we're headed for an actual great depression. Give yourself some breathing room and some time! Use that time to hone your skills, join baking groups, take classes if you can, and create relationships with people. Plant seeds, they will grow. Not all of them, but you only need one. I wish you all the best...


- Keith