Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crib notes for new bakers...

So I walked into Frutcake, the bakery where I have worked for a whole two weeks, as a 33 year old home baker who had worked in one commercial kitchen in my life, and that was at a Krogers. I hadn't had a food-related job in about 15 years. I knew how to bake my cupcakes (and a few other things) my way and I knew that other people liked them. And that was about all I knew.

In my two weeks I've learned and observed a lot. And, just in case anyone else ever is in a similar place, I thought I'd make a list of the things I've picked up.

1. Cute shoes are useless. Now cute shoes, in my eyes, covers a lot of ground. So while some shoes, like cute flats and heels and boots, would obviously be a bad idea in a kitchen, other shoes, like my dearest chucks, are also a no no. You need support, cause you're gonna be standing a LOT, and you also need traction, cause doing dishes as part of your job sucks enough without falling while you're doing them.

2. In addition to shoes, all other fashion goes out the window too. I'm starting to understand why so many chefs have tattoos an their forearms and calves. If you're working, everything else is covered by plain white or black aprons so it's pretty much the only way to add some personality (except through your food). While all your cute shirts and jeans may not be practical, if you have thin loose tees and comfy cotton pants, you're golden. Heat is a major issue in a kitchen and, while Frutcake is cooler than at least one of her sister restaurants, if you don't plan your wardrobe around this heat you'll be miserable.

3. The hair situation is no better than the clothing one. You have to wear something over your hair in the kitchen. Some people wear bandanas, which isn't really my style, so I just wear a hat. Again, this is practical, but doesn't do much for style. And my current haircut (roughly shoulder-length with bangs) is completely unpractical. It's too short to be able to put it in a ponytail and pull through the cap, plus the bangs just have to be pushed back and, after working for a bit, I have sweaty hair stuck to my neck and hat head. Not cute. Plus you can't even see whatever random color my hair may be that day. *sigh*

4. Say "behind you," not excuse me. You never know when someone's gonna go the other way so you announce your location in the kitchen. Even if it appears they're not gonna be moving. And if you're holding something hot, announce that too. No one wants to back into someone holding a boiling pot.

4. Speed is the key. While quality is obviously important in a bakery, speed is the thing everyone is aiming for. Being a person who has never been particularly speedy, that's tough. Add lack of knowledge and my ever present nerves, it gets way, way worse.

5. If you can't be speedy, at least be nice. And apologetic. I apologize a LOT. And, when needed, I'm always willing to help. And that's what has saved me so far. I know I have a lot to learn and I don't even try to pretend differently. Hopefully I'll pick everything up pretty quickly, so I can stop apologizing so much.


Andrew's Mom said...

I always knew how hard it would be - even when I did orders at home - it's hard work and people don't think so and I find that people have no problem paying $3.00 for a bakery cupcake - but for one that I filled and decorated to their specifications - they had difficulty paying $2.00 -- that's why I only do cookies or baked goods for friends now. Keep up the good work.

Paige said...

Some of the people who used to buy off me have an issue with paying the prices at the bakery. I've tried to explain to them that the reason the prices increased is because they're getting more now (all organic, an actual staff to take their orders and money, not having to drive to my apartment to get them, etc...) and I think most of them have come around.

But no matter what, my favorite times are when I'm the only one there and can work on my own recipes in my own time. It doesn't happen often, but it's a ball when it does.