Why do I enjoy being a professional baker? Whilst at a dinner party last night, I was asked what I do, and as always I gave my answer with pride. But then it dawned on me, why do I enjoy being a professional baker?
After a quick brainstorm session, I decided to fully answer the question. Here are 15 reasons why I enjoy being a professional baker.
Being a professional baker is fairly fashionable in the current climate, it’s the ability to show off your craftsmanship alongside the ability to balance flavour. But it's not only that.
Working in a team of skilled, motivated people and the challenge to forever improve your skills is what keeps me excited. And I think it's one of the reasons why many people fall in love with baking bread.
#1 -You become an expert in all things bread
If you like sharing your knowledge then this it’s great when friends approach you for your “Best white bread recipe.” or "How do you get those holes in a ciabatta?"
You become the go-to person when they have a bread related problem which will give you some purpose in life - if you didn’t have any already!
#2 -Working as a team
Most often, working in a bakery is great fun. If you want to be a baker, you’ll find there are characters from all walks of life united together for a few hours a day to achieve the best quality products they can.
True, there’s always strengths and weaknesses in a team, some are great at cutting and doing oven work, some make the perfect dough each time.
Once you get to know each other, it’s a great feeling when you are gelling together and proud of your bread.
#3 -The dough is in your control...
One of the best things I enjoy as a professional baker is the feeling of control of the dough.
When you get your productions timing right, each perfectly proofed product will hit the oven right when it empties.
Like my house proud Mother feels when she's found a place for everything in the kitchen. Baking can give a great feeling of control, if you like that sort of thing!
#4 ...But there are a lot of variables
There is never a dull moment in baking, there is always a new challenge that you encounter, things like a change in the flour consistency, the temperature, challenging production targets, a new piece of equipment or perhaps a new recipe.
Some of these arrive through no fault of the baker, the pressure is on him to create outstanding products each time. There are people, businesses and social media followers relying on your bread quality.
Making quick decisions and problem-solving are important traits of a baker. It will always keep you on your toes.
#5 -The working hours of a baker
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 being working fast to achieve your production targets and get out early (and still get paid the same).
#6 -Formal education is unnecessary to become a baker
You don’t need a degree or even attend a professional bakery school to get a job as a baker. The Poilâne bakery which has a reputation as one of the best in the world (if not the best) trains bakers with solely no experience.
Having some formal training is often advantageous as your understanding of what goes on scientifically skills and therefore your problem solving improve.
Generally in France it's an occupation that you can go to catering college to study. In the UK and USA, it is not usually expected. If you get a baker job which offers full training without any experience as many do, then great you're qualified.
You can always take a course further down the line if you want to increase your knowledge, or read a couple of baking science books. The best I've read is The taste of bread by Dr Raymond Calvel. If you do want to attend a college in the UK, The School Of Artisan Food is a fantastic place to learn everything you need to know.
#7 -Baking is a progressive career
You may have an image of a baker as a bald ugly guy who does the same thing, the same way every night and isn’t intelligent enough to hold a conversation. There are a few of them about still, but the industry has changed massively.
An intelligent person will enjoy being a baker too. Baking is now seen as an art form. It’s common for bread bakers and pizzaiolos' to become recognised in the press through reputation for their art.
There’s also a clear route to professional baker roles in management, food development, consultancy and many food-related jobs that could open if you have the desire to improve.
#8 -Own your own bakery business
Relatively low-cost start-ups and running costs, all you need is an oven to get started. Owning your own bakery can lead to selling direct to customers, hotels, restaurants, and even supermarkets.
There's endless possibilities for a niche a bakery business could take. I hope to combine bread and wine, my two loves in a business in the future. I'm worried I'll drink all the wine though!
#9 -Never ending search of self development in bread baking
There’s always a way to improve, a new technique to use, a different way of adding the ingredients, new equipment to try….It’s endless!
You will often find yourself critiquing the bread in restaurants or heading to local bakeries on holiday to sample and gain inspiration for new products. It’s never-ending!
#10 -See the world whilst baking
Bread bakers are needed across the world. If that is something you’d like to experience, why not work abroad and discover other cultures and climates.
It would enhance your skills as a baker and I’m sure visiting places like Paris, San Francisco, and Sicily would be great experiences.
#11 -Great smells
Fresh bread smells nice. The almost nutty aroma that appears once the sourdough is baking away or the scent of spice when hot cross buns are cooling is far from unpleasant! The smell of a bakery is great.
#12 -Mental health
You’ll be keeping your mind active, keeping physical and working around others.
What better way to support your mental health than to enjoy being a professional baker.
Changing the way you organise the layout of a bakery or the order in which you prepare your doughs to be more efficient. These skills are important for every professional baker and vital to a head baker. You will be unlikely to find yourself micromanaged, even as a trainee baker, there isn’t enough time.
Being a professional baker will give you some autonomy and allow you to be creative, if you can prove yourself to be good at forward planning.
#14 -Baking bread is great exercise
You’ll be on your feet for long periods, lifting and throwing heavy lumps around whilst also working fast.
Baking may take a little while to adjust to if you have not done anything like that before. It’s great exercise once your body gets used to it!
#15 -You can eat your work (and everyone loves cakes, and bread!)
It’s true, the moment 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 of bread.
Perhaps we’ve tried to bake our own, can’t eat it due to dietary needs, have experienced a baguette from a top boulangerie in Paris or simply have a favourite loaf. Everyone has a story to tell about bread.
So there's no reason not to be a pro baker?
If these reasons sound like fun, then why not get some whites and become a baker? I love it and plenty others do too! Here's a guide on getting a job as a baker in a professional environment.