Working in a bakery is a magical experience where you get to see raw materials transform into baked treats. Some bakers specialize in making bread while others work with a variety of different baked goods like pastries.
Sometimes mistaken for pastry chefs, bakers typically work in the early hours of the morning preparing dough and other wonderful treats. This career profile focuses on retail bakers.
Retail bakers bake breads and pastries
Bakers are professionals who prepare, mix and bake a variety of baked goods, including breads and pastries. They follow recipes, measure and mix ingredients and bake. Bakers operate machinery when baking, including industrial ovens and large stand mixers.
This profession is quite physical, as they knead, roll, cut and shape dough while moving ingredients around the bakery. Depending on the establishment they work in, some bakers may be responsible for serving customers and taking orders.
Additionally, some bakers may be responsible for decorating cakes with icing and creating designs such as frosting roses for the tops of birthday cakes.
Retail bakers work in a variety of environments
Bakers can generally be classified into two types. These types of bakers are:
- Retail Bakers: These bakers are the ones that you likely more familiar with. Retail bakers work primarily in grocery stores, bakeries and artisanal stores. The main point of differentiation between retail bakers and commercial bakers is that retail bakers generally work in smaller quantities, only baking enough baked goods for one individual retail store. These bakers sometimes work behind the counter taking orders from customers.
- Commercial Bakers: These bakers differ from retail bakers because they work in manufacturing facilities that produce breads and pastries in high yields. When you walk into their work environment, you can expect to see high-volume mixers and large ovens. Commercial bakers often operate large, automated machines such as commercial mixers, ovens and conveyors.
Retail bakers work on strict deadlines
Baked goods are highly time-sensitive. If you leave a bread in the oven for a few minutes longer than a recipe calls for, it could mean burnt bread. When someone begins a process, it cannot be interrupted without serious damage to the baked good. For example, leaving whipped egg whites on the counter too long will deflate them.
In order to prevent timing errors, bakers create production schedules that plan when and how much to bake of something. Production schedules help meet the demands of the customer and help keep track of the timing of baked goods with multiple components.
Retail bakers stand on their feet all-day
A baker spends all of their day on their feet moving around the kitchen and repeating the same movements repeatedly. As a result, this job can be considered physically demanding. Other physical tasks they perform throughout the day include cleaning their workstation, mixing ingredients and transferring baked goods to the oven.
Retail bakers sometimes have culinary degrees
No formal education is required to become a retail baker.
However, some places of work may have special requirements. This is because baking is a unique profession that is more reliant on work experience than education.
However, an associate’s degree or certificate in baking/pastry arts management can be extremely useful for the aspiring baker. Formal training provides these professionals with a solid foundation that is useful for their careers. There are many schools that offer baking degrees across the country.
Bakers can also seek to become fully certified bakers. According to the Baking Association of Canada, the requirements to become a Certified Baking Specialist are:
- A minimum of 5 years of acceptable industry experience which must include extensive hands-on work in the preparation and production of a full range of bakery products such as breads, cakes and pastries.
- The successful completion of a recognized provincial apprenticeship or equivalent from another country or a successful completion of BAC course, Bakery Technology, Units I, II, and III.
- The successful completion of the following BAC correspondence courses: Food Hazard Control; Occupational Health and Safety; Operating a Successful Bakery or Documented equivalent training or experience.
Retail bakers are methodical
Baking is quite different than cooking in that you must follow a certain sequence of steps. If you add eggs during the wrong step, the whole recipe is ruined. Bakers understand that they must follow a certain sequence of steps when they are baking. They are methodical and know exactly how long each step takes, allowing them to create quality pastries which meet established standards.
Retail bakers start their days early
Retail and commercial bakeries require bakers to start their work as early as 4:00 am in order to prepare for the required inventory of the day. These professionals start their days early because baking requires a lot of time. By the time customers begin their day, bakers will already have the freshest baked goods ready to serve.
Retail bakers are good at math, paying attention to details and managing their time
Being a retail baker requires a range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:
- Math – Although this job is quite physical, there is also a lot of mental work that goes into this profession. Bakers must possess basic math skills, especially fractions, in order to mix recipes, weigh ingredients, or adjust mixes correctly.
- Attention to detail – Bakers need to have a keen eye for detail because baking is a science. Every ingredient needs to be properly weighed and baked for the correct amount of time. Being slightly off in any aspect of preparing a baked good could mean underwhelming results at best.
- Time management – These professionals know exactly how long each task takes and plan their time well in advance. Bakers set a realistic framework of their day and methodically move from task to task.