The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker

If you’ve ever considered a career change, switching to baking is not a very easy move if the information accessibility on the net is anything to go by. The most important thing is that you must be passionate for baking because the road ahead is a long one and may not always be that easy.


First lets take a closer look at what it means to be a baker. Wikipedia defines a baker as someone who primarily bakes and sells bread, naturally. They add that cakes and similar foods may also be produced, but that this is a result of a blurring of the lines between what is produced by a traditional baker and a pastry chef.


Bakers traditionally work in a bakery and these days can be found in varying environments such as: 1) Large factories where bread is baked on a large scale and transported to large supermarkets, convenience stores and corner cafes etc. Machines are used for most of the labour intensive work so the bakers are mostly in charge of quality control. 2) Small independent bakeries, which tend to specialise in a particular product or range of products. These little businesses also tend to be family run enterprises. 3) Chain stores have been on the rise in recent years as people buy a franchise licence and simply take on the responsibility of selling a predetermined range of products. Bakers in these kinds of stores have to cook to a set recipe and are not allowed to experiment or introduce their own techniques.


As an aside, if you’ve ever wondered where the expression “a baker’s dozen” comes from, in the old days when kings chopped off their queens heads and no one bathed very much, some bakers would allow little boys to pinch a bit of dough off their lump so that they could sell it as their own. But the people that the bakers worked for didn’t like this practice as they felt that they were being unduly cheated out of a bit of bread so a famous regulation was introduced, the Assize of Bread and Ale, which meted out very harsh punishments to the bakers who were found cheating. In response, and what was probably a bit of a “sucks to you” sign, bakers started throwing in an extra loaf of bread, bringing the number up to 13, the baker’s dozen.


A pastry chef on the other hand, also according to Wikipedia, is a station chef in a professional kitchen. Pastry chefs are skilled at making pasties, obviously, desserts and other baked goods, which is where the blurring of the lines comes in. They are usually employed in large hotels, bistros, restaurants and bakeries. As a station chef, the pastry chef is entitled to have other chefs and assistants in the pastry department to assist with the preparation of goods. Bakers may also be members of the pastry department in bakeries and hotels.


The pastry chef has many duties that extend beyond the mere baking of desserts. He or she has to plan the menus, work out the costing and keep up to date with the ordering of stock. The pastry chef also has to research new recipe ideas, develop new recipes and experiment with new tastes. Preparation for the various desserts is usually done well in advance, before people even seat themselves for dinner. As the pastry chef is in charge of the dessert menu he or she is also in charge of selecting the appropriate dessert wines, speciality dessert beverages and any accompanying gourmet cheese platters.


It is therefore apparent that a pastry chef’s roles and responsibilities entail far more than simply baking a few cakes and delicacies. Bakers have to work awkward hours, starting very early in the morning, and depending on where they work they might have to put in a full day. If the business is a small family run enterprise, a full day might be necessary. Either way the work is hard and you have to love it to find it rewarding. But that is true of all jobs, really. And when you come right down to it, nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread; there are worse environments than that to work in.

Sandra wrote this article for the online marketers Office and Workplace Services office and workplace services one of the leading publishers of office and workplace services on the Internet.

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