My sophomore and junior years of college, I worked in a bakery on campus with one of the chefs from our Nutrition and Dietetics Department, Chef Todd. Throughout those 2 years, I learned a lot about baking. But I also learned a little bit about life too. Here are some of the valuable life lessons I learned from working in a bakery.
1. It’s Ok To Make Mistakes
I walked into my first day of work at the bakery hardly having baked a thing in my life, and certainly never baking for so many people at once. Needless to say, I made some mistakes here and there. Chef Todd was always so patient with me, and never once did he get mad at me. There was one time that we had worked all morning on one tray of pastries. And in the afternoon, when I went to take them out of the proofer, I dropped the whole thing and they all ended up on the floor. He simply sighed and we moved on to a new project. This showed me that there’s really no need to sweat the small stuff. Everyone makes mistakes (as cliché as that sounds), and we shouldn’t waste time worrying when we could be on to creating new things.
2. You Can Use Everything
It honestly amazed me how Chef Todd could find a way to use absolutely anything that we had hanging around the bakery. Many times, we would finish up a project and still have an ingredient leftover. In no time, he would have a new project on the horizon so we could somehow use up the rest of the leftover ingredient. This always kept things interesting, and we always had new and creative pastries to try.
3. Good Food Should Be Appreciated
One really important thing I learned from working in the bakery is that good food should be appreciated. Especially when it’s made from scratch. There is so much time and effort involved in preparing quality food, and it really is important that we recognize that when we’re eating it, and appreciate all the hard work that went into it. Now, when I get to see and eat really good food, I truly understand and appreciate the journey it took to get there. And it has really transformed the way I see eat.
4. Treat Yourself
This is something that I’ve come to live by. We absolutely cannot expect to be successful in having a balanced diet unless we are enjoying it. It is so important to incorporate your favorite things into your diet, and to treat yourself every so often. There is a ton of delicious food out there, and we shouldn’t avert our eyes and force ourselves to give up the things we love. Obviously, moderation is key. And too much of a good thing can make it less enjoyable. So obviously don’t overdo it. But sometimes you just need to eat the cookie. (:
5. Slow Down & Pay Attention to the Details
This one goes along with appreciating food. But it’s more about when you’re making the food, versus when you’re eating it. So often, when we cook or bake, it’s like a race against time for how quickly we can get it done. But that’s really not the way cooking should be. As the cook, you really want to have pride for the things you’re making. And if you hastily threw something together, barely taking a second look at it, that’s probably not going to happen. Chef Todd would always have us making big batches of things, and even then, each and every one was important. Each pipette-frosted cupcake, each fondant-covered cake, had a story to tell. And we took pride in the little details that we’d worked so hard on.
6. There’s A Reason For Everything
Especially when I first started working at the bakery, there were so many random little things that Chef Todd would do that seemed utterly pointless to me. But as the months went by, I came to realize that each of those little things was actually a really important part of the process. And they really made the end product into a masterpiece.
7. Good Things Take Time
There were times in the bakery when I would be waiting for something to rise or bake, and it just seemed like it took forever. But then if I ever tried to take shortcuts and take things out early, the difference in the end product was noticeable. I realized that making quality food takes time and patience. And you can’t take shortcuts if you want your product to turn out right.
Those two years that I spent working in the bakery were two of the most valuable years of work experience I’ve gotten up to this point in my life. Not only did I get to learn how to be a proper baker, but I also learned that baking has more to offer than just the pastries you take out of the oven. The skills and lessons you learn from working with a talented baker and making beautiful breads and pastries day after day are truly priceless.