At the moment I am working in the Advertising world, but have found myself baking more and more and loving it more and more so thought the baking path might be for me! I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. Do you recommend culinary education? Or is interning / assisting is the way to get started? Any tips or suggestions you would have would be greatly appreciated.
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Well, I must confess I was at a slight loss when I received your excellent question, because while I have worked in a baking capacity, developing recipes and writing about baked goods, I have never actually worked at a commercial bakery, and it really is a different beast. But don't panic, because I did something very intelligent: I consulted baking experts to get their thoughts.
Here are some thoughts from a professional baker in Seattle, who I think puts it beautifully:
At the bakery, we have tried taking on interns who have not gone to cooking school, but we have learned, the hard way again, that as much as we want to help them grow, they end up being less of an asset than a liability. So we no longer accept interns unless they have gone to pastry school. Baking is such a specialized art that takes a lot of practice to master, and even graduates from cooking school need additional experience. So since most "home cooks" would be starting from scratch (excuse my pun), it would be a challenge. I think a lot of bakeries around town share my same sentiment, although I was able to get a job baking at a catering company just by doing a working interview. I think I was the exception to the rule.
So, I believe the education is a good investment, but the important thing to keep in mind is not to go too crazy in paying for the most expensive school. Meet the chefs of the schools you are thinking of attending. You'll get a sense whether you'll be able to learn from them.
Baking is seen as such a glamorous profession, but really, it's mostly digging in the trenches. It's hard work, requiring intense focus and concentration at all times for long periods of time. You have to work fast or you won't make any money at it, and even when you do, it won't be much. But that is some of the glory that comes with the territory.
Hope this helps!