Making Headway- Advancement in the Kitchen

If you had told me a year and a half ago that I’d be second-in-command in my bakery, I would have asked what the hell went wrong.

Well, obviously COVID did, but that was only part of it.

So far, my current employment has been where I could say my most “traditional” career growth has taken place. I started as a morning baker, became a shift lead, and then Production Lead- the right hand of my manager who runs the kitchen under the auspices of the owner. My usual station is Pastry Prep (previously considered the position for newcomers and students)- but in addition to my actual production work, my other responsibilities include:

  • Fielding questions to take weight off my manager.
  • Training, advising, and assisting the other bakers as necessary.
  • Troubleshooting problems with production or facilities.
  • Responding to the higher-ups when the manager is indisposed.

Not to toot my own horn, but I handle all of it quite well, and I feel that the responsibilities I have are well-placed. In the meritocratic lore of the kitchen, this is as it should be- employees develop, rise to the level of their capability and talent, and acquire new power, responsibility, and recognition each time.

What is NOT part of that lore, or mentioned in my own ascendancy, is just how many good people I worked with deserved those roles and recognition more than me, but left for a variety of reasons. How much of advancement in the kitchen is actually meritocratic, and how much is “dead man’s boots?”

Animated GIF from David Lynch's "Dune" of Paul Atreides and the Reverend Mother talking. The quote is "They tried and failed? They tried and died."
“Many men have tried.” “They tried and failed?” “They tried and died.” (from Dune)
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