Is getting a job as a baker right for me?
Does the thought of getting a job as a baker professionally 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 professional baking, this post is going to help you discover if it's the right job for you by revealing everything being a baker involves.
Why would you want start baking bread as a profession?
Perhaps the idea of being creative, part of a team, or simply the shift pattern (there’s plenty of other reason btw) interest. Then you're probably wondering if getting a job as a baker right for you.
Then you’re not alone. Most experienced bakers started out just the same thoughts. It’s an unusual profession!
When I first entered professional baking, I was petrified, I had no interest in it, neither working at 4 in the morning!
That soon changed and it turned out that working in a bakery turned out to be one of my best decisions I ever made.
How I got into baking
I started in baking 13 years ago. It wasn’t an industry I had aspired to join, it was more forced upon me. At the time my dream of working in the music industry had fallen apart due to tinnitus. I’d tried a few things out to discover a future, and a meaning to life. Nothing had worked out.
I applied for a role at a supermarket, the one I left 2 years previous. I’d expected a shop floor position but in the interview was informed it was bakery.
My immediate response was to turn it down. And I tried to. But they persuaded me to accept.
So I did.
But then I got the best bug. A passion for baking bread hit me like a virus. And with age the connection has grown stronger.
A desire to open a business around my baking skills became strong. After a couple of years of toying with the idea, the dream came into existence.
From that moment, my life become centred around bread.
A bread life!
What it’s like to be a baker
I’ve seen many new apprentices come and go over the years. So I have an eye for which ones will stay in the industry and which will run for the door as soon as they can.
Are you thinking about becoming a professional baker?
If so then before you get to work your charm at interview let me tell you what being a baker is really like.
What makes a great baker
A great bread baker, will be passionate about quality. They will desire perfection and do it right every time. They will be able to move fast when needed, baking is a great way of keeping active. There are new challenges every bake, problem solving along with basic maths skills are essential.
Some bakers work overnight, these tend to be at bakeries that deliver. It’s best to get the fresh product out to the shops the morning before the traffic picks up.
Others typically start early, at around 3am.
What about the hours?
Many bakeries operate throughout the day with. a “late baker” required to bake fresh breads for the after work rush. In wholesale bakeries they may operate 24 hours a day.
Bakers tend to love the early shifts, it’s where the bulk of the work is done. If the thought of getting up in the middle of the night is a little daunting there are ways to avoid it. Consider becoming a late baker.
How much does baking bread pay?
A new baker is not going to be rolling in cash.
Usually £1 an hour above minimum wage is a good rate.
Some areas find it hard to recruit so may pay a little more.
Once you are on the ladder and you’ve learnt your trade, you may be able to become a bread and pastry chef at a large hotel, enter management, a bread consultant who designs recipes or set up your own baking enterprise.
In which case, there are endless possibilities.
I want a career, where can baking take my future?
If you want a career that goes beyond bread making, you will find formal training in managing people or bread science is going to help you if you to branch in a new direction in the future.
You may receive this support in some of the larger establishments, but don’t expect it.
Otherwise, just get your quality right and your breads ready in time every day. opportunities will most likely follow.
What are the perks of being a professional baker?
First off, the process of baking bread is amazing fun, you’ll love it, everyone does. Learning to craft your own recipe is even more cool.
As a professional baker, you’ll work in a team. It's as much fun messing around with your crew as it is with dough.
You’ll pull together for the same cause, compete challenging production targets and have plenty of belly laughing baker banter.
How do I apply to be a baker?
The modern way is to appear on The Great British Bake Off, but the oppurtunity is not going to be given to everyone! There has to be another way!
Small bakeries often have vacancies that need filling at short notice.
If someone leaves they will to replace that person quickly in order to train them to a reasonable level.
Its a good idea to make contact by phone or in person to as many as possible regardless of a vacancy. They may call you back in the coming weeks.
Otherwise go online to specialist catering job sites or standard generic ones and apply.
If your successful, expect to be asked to do a trial shift, sometimes a few shifts. Don’t be put off by this, many people are shocked by the intensity and what can be seen as a lack of care from experienced bakers and run out the door.
P.S. It’s not a lack of care, it’s the volume of work you need to get through to earn a living out of the low cost item. Bakers have to be fast, in fact the best bakers are the fastest as they get the bread into the oven on time and have time to check everything they do (when your half asleep, you make mistakes!).
What if i don't like it?
They may not like the hours or the physical side of baking. A trial is all about making sure you know what you are letting yourself in for.
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.
It's a painful experience for the baker and the bakery manager if it doesn’t work out. So a trial just helps the process.
Do I need any experience before applying for a baking job?
Not for an entry bakers job. 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 actually prefer hiring people with no experience.
They want to teach them all the skills they need without bringing in any bad habits. Which they may have learned in another firm.
What bakery to choose for your first bakers job?
Every bakery has different ways and uses different equipment to create it’s range of breads. Some tend to stick to the same mixing times and the same shaped tins for every bread, just changing the flour or ingredients.
Others, leaning towards a more true artisan will adapt the dough creation process and use different moulding and shaping techniques to get different textures for each bread.
Getting your first job in a bakery will teach you an array of skills is going to give you ability to bake in the future. It can be a stepping stone to a learning further skills, or you may my lucky enough to get a role in a highly skilled establishment.
But if you are not too fussed about baking true artisan bread, then a place where you feel you’ll get on with the team that’s in a sensible location is likely more important.
What questions to ask at a bakers interview
These questions will give you a feel for how artisan the bakery is. You will also find out how good a coach your manager will be for you, and understand their knowledge levels in baking bread.
Asking these questions will also show a keen interest in the role and they would be the questions I would hope to hear from an applicant.
What is the fermentation process you follow?
Stretch and fold, Chorleywood, chiller retarding…? How long does it take?
What ingredients do you use?
Expand to yeast types or flour types if you wish
What training will I receive?
Don’t forget to find out about working hours, future career progression and type of people that work there.
If they don’t offer for you to do a trail, it’s always a good idea to offer for one anyway.
Some bakeries do not hire staff that often so will not really have a smooth recruitment process.
Bakeries are often very small businesses so if it's not the smoothest of starts to employment try not to let it demotivate you.
Is professional baking like baking at home?
You will follow the same processes at home as in a professional bakery.
Baking for work will involve you producing around 80-150 loaves a night per person. You won’t have time to fuss over one loaf.
Instead you focus on things like your bap 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 so approach baking in terms of volume and quality.
You have to be efficient, if you’re too slow the dough will spoil. If you have experience at home, being a professional will improve your technique improve very quickly.
So over all, yes you are doing the same thing, but no it's much more intense.
How will I know if baking is right for me?
It’s possible that you find it hard at first. Sometimes it’s a combination of a different sleep pattern, hard physical work, mental exhaustion or occasionally stress from not getting it right the first time.
But if you have an end goal to aim for, something you want to achieve from bread. You’ll see through the hard times.
For many people, there's a tendency to overthink baking. There’s s lot to take in. Sometimes it’s easier to follow the actions and understand what is happening later on.
Once you’ve got to grips with the equipment and routine after your first couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to take some time to reflect.
You should be excited to learn more about baking bread and achieving the pace which experienced bakers work at.
If you don’t, think about the reasons you choose to become a baker and see if they are still achievable. If you’re overly tired then eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein and vegetables. It’ll help your body get used to the new regime and you’ll feel better than ever in a few weeks.
If you really do not enjoy it and it’s not at all what you wished then have a chat with your manager and see if there is anything they can do before you move on. Also please add a comment below so others going reading this post can learn from your experience.
Still on the edge?
If you like the idea of baking bread professionally and would like to know more, before you commit yourself, talk to a local bakery. See if you could do some work experience with them for an evening 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 to experience mine.
After the trial, you’ll know what goes on and what’s going to be expected of you if you get a role in a bakery. If the novelty of baking wares off after a few weeks, would it be something you’d like to do for a living?
Only you can answer that question. I can’t see why anyone would not want to be a baker! So it’s hard to speak negatively about it.
Well, some people would argue the money’s not great, but you could develop into management or to a senior bakery, if you desire.
Many people love baking. Once they’re in, they stay in for years.
Written by Gareth
"I'm looking to share my passion in artisan baking with others"