Exploring this Job
While in high school, you may be able to get a part-time or summer job at a neighborhood bakery. Although you may only be responsible for taking customers' orders and ringing up sales, you will be able to experience working in this environment. In addition to school courses, take baking or cooking classes that are offered locally by community centers, grocery stores, or tech schools. Ask your school counselor to help you arrange for a tour of a local bakery and talk to workers about their jobs. If there is a cooking school in your area, visit it and meet with the teachers to discuss this line of work.
Most bakery workers working for manufacturers (for example, a large company that produces hamburger buns or coffee cakes, which are eventually sold in the neighborhood grocery store) participate in only some of the stages involved in creating a baked item. These workers, or food batchmakers, are usually designated by the type of machine they operate or the stage of baking with which they are involved.
In preparing the dough or batter for goods baked in an industrial bakery, different workers make the different components. Blenders tend machines that blend flour. Skilled technicians known as broth mixers control flour sifters and various vats to measure and mix liquid solutions for fermenting, oxidizing, and shortening. These solutions consist of such ingredients as yeast, sugar, shortening, and enriching ingredients mixed with water or milk. The broth mixer must carefully control the temperature of the broth; if it is just a few degrees too hot or too cool, the dough or batter will not rise properly. The broth mixer runs these solutions through a heat regulator and into dough-mixing machines.
Batter mixers tend machines that mix ingredients for batters for cakes and other products. These workers must select and install mixing utensils in huge mixers, depending on the kind of batter to be mixed. They regulate the speed and time of mixing and check the consistency of the batter.
Other kinds of mixers and shapers include unleavened-dough mixers, who use a five-position mixer to make matzo; sweet-goods-machine operators, who roll and cut sweet dough to make rolls and other sweet products; and pretzel twisters, who form pretzel shapes out of dough by hand or machine. Cracker-and-cookie-machine operators roll dough into sheets and form crackers or cookies before baking. They check the machine's work and remove any malformed items before baking. Wafer-machine operators perform similar tasks with wafer batter. Batter scalers operate machines that deposit measured amounts of batter on conveyors. Doughnut makers and doughnut-machine operators mix batter, shape, and fry doughnuts. Some workers operate machines that grease baking pans or that place pie-crusts and fillings into pie plates for baking.
Bakery helpers have general duties such as greasing pans, moving supplies, measuring dump materials, and cleaning equipment. Bakery helpers sit at benches or conveyor belts, where they may fill, enrobe, slice, package, seal, stack, or count baked goods.
When baked goods are ready for delivery and sale, bakery checkers prorate and distribute baked goods to route-sales drivers, who deliver products to customers and try to drum up new business or increase business along their routes. Bakeries also employ bakery-maintenance engineers, also called bakery-machine mechanics or plant mechanics, to keep the many mixers, ovens, and other machines in good order.
Bakery supervisors, who work in industrial bakeries, are sometimes assisted by bakers or all-around bakers in overseeing production. Bakers and all-around bakers, however, most frequently work in small businesses, hotels, or restaurants where they develop recipes and mix, shape, bake, and finish baked goods.
Bread and pastry bakers, also known as pastry chefs, also work in restaurants, small businesses, such as the neighborhood bakery shop, and institutions, such as schools. Unlike bakery workers employed in industrial settings, these bakers and chefs often do much of their work by hand. They may have a fair amount of independence in deciding what items and how much of them to produce. Creativity is needed, especially when decorating an item made for a special occasion, such as a birthday cake or a wedding cake.