Does the idea of getting a job as a professional baker interest you? I loved my time in the hot-house! I want to share what it's like, the good, the bad and the sweaty!
If you're interested in pursuing a professional baking career, this post is going to help you discover if it's the right job. I’ll reveal everything it takes to become a pro baker.
We are going to cover why baking bread might be the right job and covering how you can get into the industry.
Why would you want to be a baker?
It could be the creative side, being of a team, learning a skill that’s constantly evolving, keeping active or the shift patterns.
If you're wondering if getting a job as a baker is right for you. Then you’re not alone! Many experienced bakers started out with the same thoughts. It’s an unusual profession!
When I took my first baker job I was petrified. I had no interest in it, and I was most definitely not excited to start work at 4 am!
This soon changed and it turned out that accepting the role was one of the best decisions I ever made.
How I became a baker
I started to bake back in 2005. My dream of working in the music industry fell apart due to developing tinnitus. I’d tried a few things out to discover a career path and a meaning to life. And, nothing had worked out.
I applied for a supervisor role at the supermarket I had left two years previous. I expected a shop floor position, but during the interview, they told me it was to be in the bakery!
My immediate response was to turn it down. And I tried.
But, they persuaded me to accept.
The first few years
I won’t lie, the first few years weren’t great. I was surrounded by baking “cowboys” who’d cheat the system to sell any product and change the dates on the labels to extend the life of the range. But after promotion to bakery manager and attending a training course, I realised what could be achieved.
The passion for baking quality bread hit me like a virus. And with age, this connection grew stronger, as did the quality of the bread I wanted to make.
A desire to open a business around artisan bread was strong. After a couple of years of toying with the idea, the dream came into existence.
From that moment, my life would be centred around bread.
What makes a great baker?
A great bread baker will be passionate about quality, desire perfection and do it right every time. They will move fast when needed and love new challenges every day.
Problem-solving skills along with basic maths skills are essential. The rest can be learned on the job.
What is it like to be a baker?
First off, the process of baking bread is amazing fun, most people who get involved love it!
Learning to craft your own recipes is fantastic, especially if you get to sell them to the public.
You’ll usually work in a team with each person holding a specific role. There will be rotation and always new recipes or customers, so you’ll learn every aspect of bread production.
It's just as more fun messing around with your workmates as it is to work with the dough. You’ll pull together for the same cause, compete challenging production targets and have plenty of belly laughing banter.
Is professional baking like baking at home?
The same processes are followed in a professional bakery as they would be at home. Though baking professionally involves the production of around 100 loaves per person each night. Sometimes more.
There isn’t time to fuss over one loaf. Instead, you'll focus on driving efficiency by doing things in bulk. You’ll learn skills such as an effective traying up technique, dividing a table full of dough, cutting dozens of bloomers, crossing trays and trays of hot cross buns…..
...you’ll learn how to do things quickly and approach baking in terms of volume and quality.
You have to be efficient, If you’re too slow the dough will spoil. Home bakers will find professional baking quickly improves your technique!
So overall, yes you are doing the same thing. But no, it's much more intense.
What hours do you work as a baker?
Many bakers work overnight. For bakeries that deliver it’s best to get the fresh product out to the shops the morning before the traffic picks up.
As a supermarket baker, you’ll start early, at around 4 am. Many of these operate throughout the day with a “late baker” role. They’ll provide fresh bread throughout the day and produce longer life products such as rolls and cakes.
Wholesale bakeries operate 24 hours a day so they can maximise the use of their equipment.
Most bakers love the early shifts, it’s where the bulk of the work is done and quite a few hate the cleaning down at the end of the day! If the thought of getting up in the middle of the night is daunting consider finding a bakery that has “late” baker shifts.
How much does a bread baker earn?
As a new baker, you’re not going to be rolling in cash. The pay is usually £1 an hour above minimum wage.
Some areas will find it hard to recruit and pay higher rates. There’s a bakery in my area advertising roles up to £25K.
There are also bakeries that will offer less pay.
I want a career, where can baking take my future?
Once you are on the ladder and have learned your trade there are many ways you can go. You could become a bread and pastry chef at a large hotel, enter management, a bread consultant, a recipe designer for big brands or set up your own baking enterprise.
There are endless possibilities providing you are happy to do the work!
If you want a career that goes beyond being a baker you’ll find training in managing people or the details of baking science a necessity. You may receive this support in some establishments, but don’t expect it.
Taking things into your own hands is a great way to learn and show ambition. There are plenty of books and courses you can go on to develop yourself.
One of the best books I’ve read is The taste of bread by Dr Raymond Calvel, you can get it here:
How to get an interview for a bakers job
The modern way is to appear on The Great British Bake Off. But this opportunity is not given to everyone! Don’t worry, there is another way!
Sure, you could do that or go to specialist catering job websites and apply. Though I would advise a different approach:
Get in contact with bakeries in your local area and tell them you’d love to work as a baker for them. They may have a vacancy that they haven’t advertised but it’s most likely that they won’t. If not, offer your details and it is quite likely that they’ll give you a call in the coming weeks.
Small bakeries often have vacancies that need filling at short notice.
If someone leaves they will have to replace them quickly to keep up with production. Creating an advert, vetting applications and interviewing can delay the hire for a couple of weeks. This is a valuable time in order to train a new recruit. It’s especially handy when the leaving baker is working their notice as they could help to train you.
Choosing a bakery for your first job
Every bakery uses different methods and equipment to create its range. Some stick to the same techniques for every bread, just changing the flour or concentrate packet.
Others, lean more towards artisan baking. Here they’ll adapt their care of each dough and use different moulding and shaping techniques so that they can create an array of bread.
You’ll learn more in an artisan environment though you’ll probably find a bigger team and (maybe) more promotion opportunities in the first type I described.
Getting your first job in a bakery will teach you plenty of skills. Wherever you aim to end up working in different environments will help you in the future. I still draw on my non-artisan baking experiences today.
A bakery where you’ll gel with the team and that’s in a sensible location is probably just as important as the type of bread you are making.
Do I need any experience before applying for a baking job?
Not for an entry bakers job, most advertised baker roles offer full training. You need to be able to be comfortable with basic maths, reasonably fit and be able to get on well in a team. The rest can be taught by the right coach.
Some bakery owners prefer hiring people with no experience. They want to teach all the skills without bringing any bad habits.
I’ve had successful bakers with a variety of backgrounds. From marketing assistants to bricklayers there is no set experience required for the role.
It is always important though it's especially wise if your previous experience has been office-based to be clear on your reasons for wanting the role. Being on your feet for long periods and working with your hands will be a big change for your body and mind. An employer will be mindful of this so be sure to include a line or two in your executive statement and/or cover letter to explain that you're aware of this and excited to work in a more physical way.
Though I’ve mentioned it’s a physical job, there are a lot of problem-solving and maths skills required.
You’ll have to plan your production so the bakes reach the oven at the optimum time, a machine might break so you’ll have to calculate the ingredients required by hand, there may be changes in production needs midway through your bake meaning you’ll have to change your plan to cope with the extra work.
There’s always a problem so use your experience to show you're going to be competent enough to solve everyday issues that appear without support.
Using the job specification as a guide for the CV and interview
The job specifications in the vacancy advert will tell you what the employer is looking for. If you are going to an interview that wasn’t advertised you could see if you can search for a previously filled vacancy from that company on Indeed. Instead, have a look at rival firms to get an idea.
List each skill required and think of an example of where you’ve demonstrated competency in the skill before and write it down. Include the key examples in your CV and keep the rest for the interview.
What if this is my first job?
Not worked before? No problem.
Draw on your experience in education and again, sell your key skills or hobbies that relate to the skills you’ll need.
It's always surprising how skills are transportable from working and social situations.
What to say at the interview
Once you’ve got an interview booked, take a look at the how to pass an interview for a baker post.
What happens if I pass or fail the interview?!
If you're successful, expect to be asked to do a trial shift. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do a few shifts. Don’t be put off by this as many people are shocked by the intensity of professional baking and run for the door. It’s an opportunity for you and the employer to walk away if it’s not the right fit.
I never used to do trials shifts, but after seeing so many people start, realise they hate it and then drag themselves through the day till they leave, I decided it was best.
Accepting the role
If there’s no trial shift and you’re offered the job then great. I’ve always slept on a job offer as I want to be sure that it’s the right thing to do. If you're happy the following day then accept!
There may be a training rate of pay and a qualified rate. Get clarification before accepting when you shall receive the higher rate. If it’s awarded on performance it’ll provide extra motivation to learn your craft quickly!
Being turned down
As with all roles, something similar will come up again. Ask for feedback and ask if you can be contacted if a similar role comes up again. Having a person that’s motivated to work for the company is always exciting and can work well for both parties.
There is no way of knowing 100% whether an interviewee will be successful in the role after a 20-minute chat so don’t feel too down. I’ve been turned down many times from jobs I thought I’d have been great at! So it’s worth trying to keep in contact and hope you get a call in the future.
The first day
Your first day can take many routes! You could be watching videos and signing training documents or you might be thrown straight in at the deep end! It depends. Either way, keep talking to the people around you and asking questions and you’ll be fine I’m sure!
What if I don't like it?
As much as there is plenty to love about baking bread, it doesn’t turn out to be the dream role for everyone.
The physical work, long hours, unsociable shifts can become barriers and I’ve also seen many intelligent people just not “get” baking bread professionally. In this case, you’ll have much more respect from your employer if you tell them that you are looking for something else.
They can often put you on basic duties and will stop investing wasted time training you. This will allow you to be an asset to them and cover certain positions whilst they look for someone else.
Still on the edge?
If you like the idea of becoming a baker and would like to know more, why not speak to a local bakery. See if you could do some work experience with them for a shift or two.
Even if there is no vacancy. If they agree, you’ll be able to see first hand what it’s like in a commercial bakery. I always said yes to those that have asked.
Many people love baking. And once they’re in, they stay in for years.
I’ve tried to offer my best insight from my experience in hiring bakers. If I’ve missed anything or been unclear post a comment below and I’ll get back to you with my solution! Thank you and good luck!