I enjoy telling people that I am a baker. Invariably the response is very animated and excited; people find it to be fascinating. I think with TV and Netflix being awash with cooking shows glamorizing food service careers, people tend to have a rosy view of my profession. Without fail, if I get into a lengthier conversation with someone about my job, eventually they will ask, “So, do you want to have your own bakery one day?” When I answer in the negative, there is always confusion. “But why?” I’ve even had people go so far as to question whether or not I should even continue to bake if I don’t want to end up with my own bakery. I want to point out, first of all, that owning your own bakery is NOT the highest career goal that a baker can reach. I think any baker will tell you that the best jobs are the ones that allow you the freedom to push your boundaries and try new things. Whether or not this is in the context of a business that you own is irrelevant. These are the features of my job that I most appreciate, and I feel no need to turn my life on its head and do something that is of no real benefit to me.
The success rate of new restaurants and bakeries is extremely low. Not to sound like a total downer on the subject, but the likelihood of being able to open a bakery and keep it running for the long term is very slim. Profit margins for most baked goods are extremely tight, which is something I’m not sure a lot of people realize. There are many other ways that I could invest my money that would be far more responsible and profitable. I have no desire to be taking out loans and strapping myself financially into a business with such a high potential for failure.
I’ve had people encourage me to run my own baking business on the side, sort of a small scale, home based version of a bakery. At times this is a good way to bring in extra money, but as I do more of it I begin to grow tired of the night baking and trying to fit it into my schedule. I’m happy to do it on occasion for friends and family, because I love sharing my work with others! But I wouldn’t promote myself and take on more and more projects, because a full work day of baking is plenty for me. I am a creative person, and there are many facets to my creativity. I wouldn’t ever want to force myself into a place of only being able to bake and not being able to indulge my other creative pursuits. I would argue that putting a limit on my baking doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it, on the contrary, I enjoy it so much that I don’t want to grow to dislike it.
Baking is a physically exhausting task, done in a room constantly heated by ovens. You are on your feet lifting, bending over, mixing, and using your hands. Baking has affected my body over the years in ways that I didn’t expect. Weird fact: I have a callus on my left pointer finger from regularly using a bottle of pan spray. My hamstrings are constantly tight and the muscles near my shoulder blades are always tense from the huge amounts of repetitive scooping that I do. Starting a bakery means more time invested in the kitchen, wearing down my body at an even greater pace with little rest. I, for one, would like to preserve my physical stamina for as long as possible, so I choose not to burn myself out in the kitchen.
Despite my personal feelings on the matter, I seriously admire my fellow food service workers that put in the hard work and time required to create their own business. I have personally witnessed the sacrifices made by owners who put aside their personal lives to build their dream. I don’t write this to discourage the creation of bakeries; I work at one after all! I have a deep appreciation for businesses that bake and sell desserts and for the hard-working owners that make it all happen day after day. Bakeries are not businesses for the faint of heart, and it takes bravery, passion, and perhaps a tiny bit of crazy to run one. Bakeries are a testament to the efforts of hard-working people who love to share their desserts! Each day in a bakery you are working as a team to innovate the product and to grow the business for the benefit of one another. Bakeries are heartfelt visions come to life, and being able to contribute my efforts towards the well-being of a business and my coworkers is a privilege that I will always cherish.
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