In the Night Kitchen

Many apologies for my lack of screen presence.  I have had a whirlwind ride of interviews, trial shifts and dabbles of a few well established bakeries around town.  So what does all this mean? Yes, I finally have a full time job doing what I love to do professionally- baking bread.  I am ecstatic, all those years of wavering back and forth on my dreams, that last long year of working 8 hours in the morning and going to school for 5 hours a night- plus commuting, doing bit baking jobs here and there; it has all paid off.    Well, not the loans at least. Little steps.

So I must share what a baker does in a shift.  No, not sitting at a desk, staring at the screen (maybe you’re doing this right now), and wincing from a paper cut injury from earlier in the morning.  Not that at all.  I’m talking about continually lifting 30 lbs. of dough onto a table, moving trays of bread in and out of an oven that’s gradually heating the room,  racing around the bakery and shuffling trays from proofers, ovens, refrigerators; things like that.  Oh yeah, and this is all happening while you are sleeping.

I’m lucky and start my workday at 4 a.m.  I was offered another job that started at midnight.  That trial shift was exhilarating but almost killed me.  The baker I shadowed did not stop rushing around the kitchen until it was 9 in the morning.  He swiftly reached under counters and carefully measured the flour for his breads, assembled the ingredients into personal spa tub-sized mixers, kept an eye on the dough as it comes together while measuring out more ingredients, resting then dividing the doughs into boules, bloomers, baguettes, rolls and letting those proof again while still measuring out more flour and rotating the bread in and out of the ovens that fills the room with 80°F heat.  I slowly began to understand his routine and organization as I made scones and bagels in the corner and jumped in when it came time to shape the bread.  This type of work is only for the passionate.  Even then I was debating on how strong my passion was for this.  I would say this moment came at 3 a.m. 

Working in the heat, alone, in the middle of the night is exactly what it’s cracked up to be.  And the radio never has anything good on at that time- or ever.  But after that brief 5 hour trial shift, I was offered the position.  They did have some hang-ups that I was a woman and the demand of work but they felt confident in my skill at handling bread that I could do this.  Fortunately, I did a trial shift at a bakery I’ve been waiting 5 months for and got offered a much better job there.  I’ve been there for about 3 weeks now, and I love it. While I’m doing similar work, we let our shaped dough rest overnight to develop a fuller flavor, which means I get to sleep in 4 more hours.  Hooray!  I’m still adjusting to morning life, naps help but the company I keep at work make it all the better.  So here’s to the night baker, working while you sleep- or as I see when I go to work- all the people still partying at 3:30 a.m.  Kids these days…

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