If you are thinking of becoming a bread baker, there might be a bit of uncertainty. Much as it is one of the oldest jobs in existence, few people outside the industry know what it really involves. So if you are looking at professional bread baking as a career, take a look at the 15 reasons to be a baker. I loved it!
As a professional baker, you’ll be working on all stages of production. Duties are likely to include:
Depending on the size of the bakery, you may be expected to be in charge of sections of the production process or the entire routine! But, aside from the daily duties, what is it really like to be a baker?
I’ve worked as a baker and bakery manager/owner for over ten years, so I have a relatively good idea. If you are interested in what it’s like and whether you have what it takes to be a baker, hopefully, you’ll find some insight in this article.
The first question you should ask yourself is, why do you want to be a baker? Then compare your expectations to my experiences. If they are a match, then possibly, it’s the perfect job for you!
Every day in a bakery is great fun. You’ll find characters from all walks of life unite every day to make the best quality products that they can. There will always be strengths and weaknesses in a team. Some members will be great at scoring or doing oven work. Some may make the perfect dough each time. Once you get to know each other, it’s a great feeling when you gell. I’ve been rolling around the floor in laughter in a bakery many times!
Keeping your mind healthy is a really important aspect when selecting a new job. When baking, you won’t be behind a computer screen. You’ll be on your feet, keeping your mind active at all times. Keeping physical and working around others. Whenever you see a beautiful loaf come out of the oven, there’s a sense of pride as you can say, “I made that!”. What better way to support your mental health than to be a professional baker?
The nutty aroma that appears as sourdough comes out of the oven and the scent of aromatic spices which colour the air throughout Easter is far from unpleasant! Fresh bread smells nice, and being around the smell of a bakery every day is fantastic.
Moulding fantastic-looking products in your hands is a truly rewarding process, but it’s not the only avenue to be creative in a bakery. Changing the way you organise your baking routine, switching your shaping technique or making the layout of the baking area more ergonomic are a few ways you can utilise your creative juices. You will unlikely be micromanaged, even as a trainee baker. Once you’ve got the basics correct in your recipes, you’ll be encouraged to master them.
As a baker, you’ll be on your feet for long periods, lifting and throwing heavy lumps of dough around. You will also be expected to work fast, especially when you have big orders! The physical side may take a little while to adjust to if you’re not used to it. After a month or so, the new daily routine will feel normal. Many bakers discover muscles they never knew they had!
One of the best things I enjoy as a professional baker is the feeling of controlling the dough. When you have a good day, and your timing is right, each perfectly proofed product is ready to hit the oven right as the previous exits. Baking gives a great feeling of control, but without any arrogance!
There is never a dull moment in baking. There are always new challenges to encounter. Typical obstacles include; a change in the flour’s consistency, the temperature, challenging production targets, and new recipes.
Despite these challenges, the pressure will be on you to continue to create outstanding bakery products. People are relying on your bread to be the best. It will always keep you on your toes!
There’s always a way to improve, a new technique to use, a different way of adding the ingredients, and new equipment to try….It’s endless! You will often find yourself critiquing bread in restaurants or local bakeries on vacation. This is a great way to sample and gain inspiration for new products. It’s never-ending!
Friends will ask you for your “Best white bread recipe.” or “How do you get those holes in a ciabatta?” You become the go-to person for bread-related problems in your group. This is somewhat cool! It is much more interesting than my Father explaining what printing film he used to print a sign in his job… I think so, anyway! Baking and sharing your baking knowledge is a relatable and useful skill for many others.
You don’t need a degree or even attend a professional bakery school to get a job as a baker. One of the best bakeries in the world, Poilâne trains its bakers from scratch. Some formal training is advantageous so that you understand more of the science of bread baking. This will, in turn, help your problem-solving skills in the future. In many countries, it is not usually expected that you study. It’s not uncommon to see baker jobs advertised which offer full training without any experience necessary.
You can always take a course further down the line if you want to increase your knowledge. You can also read a few technical baking books. One of the best that I have read is The taste of bread by Dr Raymond Calvel.
If you want to further your career, there’s a clear route from trainee or professional baker. This can lead to management, food development, and consultancy roles in the future.
You may have an image of a baker as a bald guy who does the same thing, the same way every night and doesn’t hold a conversation. There are a few of them still around, but the industry has changed massively in recent years! Baking is now seen as an art form. Artisan bread bakers and pizzaiolos’ are often recognised for their work.
With relatively low-cost start-ups and running costs, owning your own bakery is a credible long-term goal. All you need is an oven to start, which can lead to selling directly to customers, hotels, restaurants, and even supermarkets. There are endless possibilities a bakery business could take.
Further reading: Is a bakery business profitable?
Bread is made across the world. And, despite there being different recipes and cultures, the science of making bread does not change. You should be able to find work as a baker in new countries. Why not discover other cultures and climates? I’m sure working in places like Paris, San Francisco, and Sicily would enhance your skills as a baker no-end!
It’s not all night work, depending on where you go to work. A professional baker role could mean working evenings, early mornings and even daytime shifts. Every bakery is different, so don’t rule it out if that’s what you’re worried about. Often, you can reap the rewards of working fast by achieving your production targets quickly and leaving early.
It’s true. The moment that you tell someone you are a baker, the usual response is, “Can you make …. it’s my favourite!” It opens up a conversation that is easily accessible to anyone. Everyone has a different experience with bread. Perhaps they’ve tried to bake their own, can’t eat it due to dietary needs, experienced a baguette from a top boulangerie in Paris or simply have a favourite loaf. Many people have a story to tell that involves bread.
If you can handle physical work, are good at time management and are happy to work on your feet for long periods, there are a few other downsides. You’ll need strong attention to detail as you’ll be making measurements and watching dough all day.
The pay, when just starting out, can be fairly low in relation to the skills that you need. Bakers earn between $40k -$54k in the US and £16k – £25k in the UK, although higher rates are found in artisan bakeries and those in London. The rate of pay varies a lot between companies, so it’s worth looking around before applying for a job as a baker. The pay scale rises quickly if you progress into more senior or management roles.
If these reasons sound like fun, then why not get some whites and become a baker? I love it, and plenty of others do too! Check my guide for getting a job as a baker to find out more. Are you a professional baker who relates to these answers? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!
Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baker, bread baking coach and college lecturer. I’m here to help you make better bread and learn about the baking industry.
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