Course of the month:
John, one of our bakers, and I both took part in a Job Swap this summer ( John seen above in a quieter moment!) Here's how we both got on.
This summer I spent a day in the Cookery school as part of a job swap. I suppose the idea was for us to get a deeper understanding of how the company worked, meet new people and appreciate the work they do; all that sort of thing. I saw it more as an opportunity to get out of the bakery, which gets really hot this time of year, and have a bit of a break. A bit like going on a school trip.
I chose to work at the school because it’s barbecue season, and I knew there would be lots of great food, and I didn’t imagine I’d have to work that hard. After all it would be the people on the course who’d be doing all the actual cooking.
When I arrived Jane gave me a quick tour of the place, and then explained what she needed me to do. Basically my job was to do all the things that take the fun out of cooking. Chopping vegetables, weighing out ingredients, cleaning dishes. I made a loaf of bread too, and learned that kneading one loaf by hand took me longer than it takes one of our mixers to mix one hundred, which was a bit of a blow to my self esteem. I also learned how to make coleslaw, and how to chop cabbage without also chopping off your fingers.
I did have a few opportunities to see what people were making, and it all looked incredible. Fortunately a few people had been unable to make the class at the last minute, which meant there was loads of left over food to try. Once everyone had gone Jane and I were left with the washing up. I noticed that a lot of the brownie had been left over. It seemed to me that while everyone had definitely learned a lot about how to cook, they didn’t know how to pace themselves, and leave enough room for dessert.
I enjoyed my time at the school and had fun, even though there’s more to it than I had expected.
When the opportunity came along to participate in a job swap, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t spend too long thinking about which department I would like to work in, the question was whether they would willingly have me hinder their production for the day. The bakery was the place; the heart of what we do. I wanted to spend some time practising shaping loaves, particularly baguettes, so after making some enquiries apparently the best shift to see them was the 6am – 2pm shift. So determined was I not to be late, I spent a sleepless night watching the clock until I could rise at 4.30am. I’m not really much of a morning person these days.
The bakery is a hub of activity 24 hours a day, so when I arrived just before 6am, production was in full swing; doughs mixing, shaping, proving and baking.
First on the menu; baguettes. Great! I knew there would be many, and I would be slow used to only shaping a few loaves at a time when teaching a cookery course at the school. Consistency is important, the weight must be accurate and of course the shape. No one will buy the ugly baguette. With this in mind I got stuck in and tried to keep up, my one to their two wasn’t bad I thought.
I was keen to see the baguette through to the end, and practice scoring. One of our many talented bakers, Vasileios, spent ages showing me the last stages of shaping and the all-important scoring before they are loaded into the ovens. Sharing in my enthusiasm for picking out my efforts after they were baked. The smell is just incredible and the magic that happens in the oven is something of which I will never tire.
I also spent some of the with John (who had already spent some time on my turf) making rolls. Firstly, the ingredients for the dough are weighed and mixed (forget 2kg of flour, more like 2 sacks at a time) before being placed into the machine to be portioned, rolled and then flattened into burger buns. My job was to remove them from the conveyor belt, and place them onto a lined tray ready to go in the prover. Now, this machine can go at different speeds, sadly my top speed still wasn’t quick enough to keep up and I had to watch, helpless, as rolls frequently fell off the end of the belt, much to John’s amusement.
I learnt so much in my short time, and I certainly have a few stories to tell.
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