11 April 2005

Why Baking ? Events that shaped my views

Although I didn't wait that long - I too witnessed myself at a crossroads. I had been working in the medical field - as a biomedical tech./phlebotomist/Medical assistant. 5 years total.

Before that though, I had gotten culinary training & a chef certificate. I knew that I wanted to lean toward bakery. I interviewed and scored an internship at an upscale bakery downtown.

There I learned the Art of cake assembly & decorating of 12 different fine European style torts & gateaus [6 inch rounds (6 inch tall) 8 inch, 1/4, 1/2, full sheets]; bombs [layers of génoise chocolate sponge, cappuccino mouse, formed & then poured with chocolate ganache finished with a shell border & chocolate curl] cappuccino tarts [shortbread tart shells with a chocolate layer, filled with espresso ganache, then topped with chocolate ganache & finished with chocolate adornments]; Fresh fruit tarts[shortbread tart shell, melted chocolate @ bottom, sweet cream cheese, all types of fruits cut & arranged across the face of the tart, then covered with apricot glaze]; éclairs; gourmet cookies; tartlets; Bouche De Noël [with meringue mushrooms] ;Lemon meringue tarts; Cheese cakes; etc.

After I graduated from my culinary training I eventually was hired on, and they hired me also to fill their retail orders for Mondays. So I would come in on Sundays and basically have the cake room to myself. I would get All the products ready & racked to be transported to the 4 retail stores they had. It would take me 4-5 hours.

On one of these following Sundays, I noticed that the cake room had been stacked from floor to ceiling {every bench, every cranny was filled] with bistro chairs & tables from the retail area of the bakery. But when I entered the bakery that's what really stressed me. They had been stripping the wood floors and re-applying chemicals to varnish the floors. There were very little walls in the space - so all these fumes were drifting into all corners of the building.

The fumes were so bad I had trouble focusing. My then boyfriend was in the contracting trade, & he had made comments about the safety of working around those fumes- -- not to mention the products safety. I also am extremely sensitive to fumes.

I went upstairs to the Owner's office & repeated verbatim , what my then boyfriend had said.

The owner snickered & told his male 'companion' ,

"Show Amber to A table"

We walked down the stairs. He led me to the cake room & pointed to a small marble topped bistro table, the only one without chairs or tables stacked on it.

Well I finished my duties -- yeah it took me 8 hours instead of the typical 4. My mind was meandering , and the fumes were not dissipating (no windows/ air) . After I left, I resolved not to go back there again. I figured if the owner didn't care about me or the product -- why work there?

But part of me has been holding on to that since. I felt conflicted. That was the only job I have ever walked away from. I loved what I would do each day.

My friend Joanne had told me:

"You ARE SO lucky! That is my dream job!"

Then part of me wonders if said boyfriend was devious enouph to make me think I should quit? He had been guilty of other far worse things, which came to light later on. He knew that I loved that job. But then again that is really ridiculous.

My second week of school I asked my Baking instructor if I could speak to him. I sat down and told him the whole story. I had to hold back tears. My voice wavered with all the pain and self conflict I had been holding so near to my heart. I asked him if fumes like that were a bad thing.

He replied,"

"That it depends on the products you had been working with. If it was buttercreams or pastry creams --- anything of that nature, the fumes would be absorbed...."

The more that I told him, the better I felt. He told me to let it go. So I am not as apprehensive as I was the first few days of being in the bakery environment again.

When I look back , or when people ask me "Why Baking?". I think the true turning point was maternity leave, after the birth of my first child. Then I decided to go part time, as my job was really demanding & stressful. There were no set hours & overtime was happening quite frequently. Once I did that , only working 1-2 days a week instead of 50+ hours. I was able to really do some soul searching. I realized what I really wanted in life.


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