Somewhere in the three years that passed between my last post of 2011, and my first revisit to the idea of Burn The Brioche, things have changed dramatically: the people in my life, my outlook on everything, and my career. As of now I’ve been baking professionally for two and a half years, with my culinary education looming over me like a sore thumb. I say that because lets face it, as nice as a culinary education looks on a resume, people who work in kitchens aren’t idiots, they know better, they’re wise beyond the comprehension of anyone who hasn’t worked in kitchens, or production food work. They know how to spot idiots, hell, I’ve had to learn pretty quick. They have things called “stages”, where you work anywhere from thirty minutes to a full six or eight hour shift. Usually for free.
Whisky makes my stomach warm.
Where was I? Ranting no doubt. Oh yes…. Culinary students are generally idiots and not to be trusted. Sometimes one stumbles in, ready to work – blood, sweat and baguettes – for next to nothing, and you hire them. But generally you have to look for any spark of life, and hope to god that when you hand them a paycheck, they come back the next day ready to work just a little harder, try just a little more honestly to remember, to learn.
I quickly learned I fell in to the category of “fluke”.
A fluke, to me at least, is someone who defies the ordinary expectation. If you’d normally expect the worst, given the situation, and it turns out to be a complete positive? That is a fluke.
I went to culinary school, but yet I’m very, very good at what I do.
I was one of the few that actually knew what they were getting in to. Low pay, crazy hours, high stress. I thrive in fire and dough.
I met Grace shortly before graduating from school. She was in the baking and pastry certificate program, just starting her second term. I had already completed all of the class work she would be doing and had moved on to management. The big kid stuff. It was, at least I thought so, a good three years.
In that three years I fell deeply in love, and stumbled from a small bakery in McMinnville, and after only six months there, to a high end, overpriced hipster grocery store that has exploded with growth in the Portland area. There I learned how a production schedule should be kept, how a bakery should not be handled, how employees should and should not be treated or talked to or talked about. After a year and a half, I found myself out of work, without a car, and my pockets empty. I was burned out. I worked so hard, built my confidence so high, and then it all came crashing down, slowly, like the first spring rain in Oregon, a low drizzle at first that slowly, but surely, turns into an even down pour. After a few months of being unemployed, the fights started, and I found a gig at a bagel shop in West Portland. It was disgusting. Mold, mice, contaminated ingredients, managerial negligence, not to mention the shit pay and high expectations. I bailed after 3 weeks. Only about a week later I found myself slinging dough and pastries at a bakery off of NE 42nd, the computer science education I had thought my way out of all of my troubles slowly fading in my mind as just another way to escape, life had leveled out again. At least I had hoped. Six months later and Grace is gone, not my fault but hers, not her fault but mine. Now things have leveled out, my feet are placed firmly on the ground. I have plans, I have ideas, I have momentum. I am still young.
Winter is rolling in here in Portland, Thanksgiving just around the corner, the busy season for bakers.
From now till the end of the year.