The Heart of Life- 5 Lessons from the Kitchen to Take Anywhere

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

The bakery was going through a spat of high turnover. New hires were either leaving, vanishing, or simply showing themselves not up to handling the work. It was becoming disheartening, frustrating… and more than a little exhausting. “Many hands make light work” kinda relies on there being “many hands.”

In the seven months I had been working for the bakery, I’ve had to train six people in my station as the morning baker and “ovenlord.” The work is not especially difficult- the specifics of it can be written down or memorized quickly, and the skills involved can be mastered with practice.

When our production manager started wondering aloud how they could train employees to make them better, and more quickly- I suggested they all learn my position first. While the specific knowledge and skills of the morning bake are easy to learn (I actually wrote a teaching aide/cheat sheet to help people who got lost), the most challenging thing for a new person on the shift to learn is something they can take anywhere in the kitchen- or in life: time management.

clear glass with red sand grainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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The Ten Steps of Baking (Totally Not a Listicle)

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

After last weeks post about the basic science of bread, I figured it might be a good idea to keep going on this rudimentary road trip through the land of yeasted loaves and carbs. For this post, and most of the posts coming up, I pulled out one of my old culinary school textbooks as a reference, and the memories came flooding back.

Namely, “Holy f*** this stupid thing is heavy.” 

41YOWNAPFuL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgIt’s still an excellent resource, though. The book is “Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach by Michael Suas, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a deeper dive on the science and craft of baking bread.

 

 

 

As for today, we’re gonna keep it light and- literally- go by the numbers as we cover The 10 Steps of Baking!

Stand by for tasty science!

Yzma and Kronk from The Emperors New Groove screaming "It's dinner time." in lab coats.

from The Emperors New Groove

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Loafing About- A Hot Take On Bread Science

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

A few years back, Emily and I were checking out a candle shop in Collingswood, NJ. The place (predicatably) smelled almost overpowering. Besides candles there was a lot of incense, Wicca, natural- healing, and- what I have been told is an accepted term- “woo-woo stuff.”

The proprietress was behind the counter, and she asked what we did as she rang up our purchases. I told her I was a baker, and the following exchange happened:

“Oh good! I’ve always wanted to ask a baker this! Okay, so what’s the difference between wheat, yeast, and gluten? Like I’m trying to go gluten free because it’ll help my chakras align, but I’m also vegan and I REALLY like nutritional yeast, so like, is there gluten free yeast? Isn’t yeast alive, so isn’t it actually not vegan? And I was also wondering bzzzzzzzzzzz…..”

Me:

Animated gif of an extremely baffled llama

“….”

To avoid anyone from having to deal with this shenanigans again, and to answer a couple questions that have been pitched to me by other non-baking pros, here’s a Crash Course on Bread.

Let’s get started.

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A Healthy Dose of Self-Loathing

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors! Sorry about the. Lack of a post last week, but I wanted to take a little time off for my birthday. I’m 33 now… so I figure I’lll. Know what that’s supposed to mean next year. I try not to get too navel-gazy… the lint gets up my nose.

Besides, there’s been plenty of stuff going on to keep me occupied. I’m very good at my job (of writing AND baking, fortunately)- and my day job keeps finding ways for me to demonstrate it.

Often repeatedly. In the same manner.

Animated GIF of the President from the West Wing pounding his head on his desk

That said, no one became proficient at anything by “winning” all the time. You gotta screw up sometimes… so how do you react?

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“How Far Yet To Go”- #BourdainDay, One Year Later, and Defining a Legacy

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

Friendly warning- today’s post will be a bit heavy, and it’ll talk a bit about suicide/self harm- as well as the varied reactions to it.


June 8th, one year ago, one of my heroes died.

If you were to ask me, I don’t have too many heroes that aren’t fictional characters. Finding a person that- even indirectly- inspires one to live in emulation of them, to make certain life choices, or who’s work becomes a source of comfort and identity is pretty profound, and it happens to me rarely.

It’s one of the reasons that people who pipe in with “Jeez, they were just a celebrity, get over it/ why don’t we remember REAL heroes/ etc” piss me off. One has to wonder of these same people drive past funerals and scream “Who cares? It’s not like they cured cancer and walked on Mars!”

So when I say the death of Anthony Bourdain affected it me deeply, I’m not being hyperbolic. The fact that he died by his own hand unexpectedly doubled the tragedy, but for those who read Tony’s works and about his life, it was slightly less than surprisingly. Self-destruction and suicide were demons Tony had wrestled with before in his life- and they only ever had to win once.

One year later, in remembrance of his life and legacy, friends and fellow chefs Eric Ripert and Jose Andres established Bourdain Day on the 25th, and the Culinary Institute of America has established an Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship in his memory.

One year later, all of us cooks get to sit down and think of his life and what we can learn.

Some of us, I think, spend their off-time driving past funerals.

Picture of Anthony Bourdain with quote “Perhaps wisdom, for me, means realizing how small I am, how unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

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Comfort Food, Part 2- The Family Table

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!

Between my day job at the bakery, trying to keep up with this blog, and the release of the book (IN 3 DAYS!!,) I’ve actually managed to run a little low on energy for other parts of my life.

Which is why, last night, I decided I was going to give myself a weird form of self-care and fix myself a slightly advanced version of Matt’s Nights In In College.

Don’t make that face. This doesn’t come from nowhere. Nothing we eat does.

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