What does a baker do?
Bakers are food workers who create breads and other baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, pies and pastries. They are responsible for preparing and measuring ingredients, properly cooking or baking foods, and decorating sweet baked goods. A bakery owner can hire bakers and have the freedom to design the type of bakery business that they want, which might be a traditional retail bakery selling a variety of baked goods, an artisan bakery offering healthy, high-quality organic breads, or even a combination bakery and café.
In small bakeries or specialty shops, bakers bake small quantities of breads, pastries, cookies and pies for consumers. They may also take orders and create specialty items, such as wedding and birthday cakes. In large-scale manufacturing operations, bakers produce goods in large quantities using industrial equipment, such as mixers and ovens. The items are then sold through distributors, grocery stores, or manufacturers’ outlets.
Alexandra Biess | BAKER AND BAKERY OWNER | Charly’s Bakery CC
Explain what you do for a living
I am one of the owners of our family-owned business, Charly’s Bakery, established in 1989. I’m also a cast member of reality TV show Charly’s Cake Angels.
Why did you choose this profession?
My dad is the Charly in Charly’s. He and my mom, Jacqui, started the bakery when my sister and I were young. I started working at the bakery on weekends and fell in love with the business and the passion my parents had for it. I decided that taking over the family legacy was where I could see myself.
Did you undergo formal training?
I have no formal training in the baking industry, but growing up in my parents’ business has trained me well and taught me to ‘play’ while learning. My parents have allowed me to teach myself new and fun ways of being in what used to be a ‘traditional’ industry.
Describe a typical day in the bakery
I arrive at work and immediately check up on all the orders for cakes, petit fours, etc. I then check that all areas of the bakery are running on time, e.g. the bakers in the oven section, the confectioners in the icing section, the decorators in the front of shop. Throughout the day I update our order lists as each order comes in. At the end of the day I do numerous checks for placing orders with suppliers, make sure that everything for the next day is on track and deal with staff issues, wages and administration.
Best part of the job?
Being able to work in a creative space, connecting with creative people, and coming up with new and innovative designs within the baking industry. There’s also nothing as awesome as seeing a person’s face when they come to collect their dream cake, or getting a phone call or email a few days later to say how much they loved the cake… it’s priceless.
The worse part?
The long hours, as well as dealing with difficult customers; people believing that the customer is ALWAYS right (often not the case). We do our absolute best to try and accommodate everyone’s needs and desires, but sometimes we need to be treated like human beings that also make the odd mistake.
The highlight thus far?
Filming season one of our 13-episode TV show, ‘Charly’s Cake Angels’. This was an incredible highlight and really allowed us to showcase to the world what we are able to achieve in the Mother City at the foot of Africa. We start filming season two later this year.
How does one survive in the industry?
Anyone who is willing to work really hard, is creative and good at teamwork will make it. The baking/service industry is not a 9-5 job and people need to be willing to put in the extra time and effort for the end result.
Advice for wannabe bakers…
Surround yourself with (A) People who love you; (B) Hard-working people; (C) Creative people; (D) All of the above; and (E) Most importantly, be prepared to WORK your business yourself, don’t expect any manager to run or love your business as well as you would.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
The primary way to move up and advance as a baker is to gain work experience. Bakers often start as apprentices or trainees and learn through on-the-job training at local restaurants, hotels or bakeries, in addition to taking courses. While certification is not required by most employers, it can help bakers stand out from the competition. There are many short courses offered that only require a Grade 10 Certificate. Otherwise, a National Certificate in Craft and Flour Confectionery Baking is a useful qualification to have. Some bakers choose to open their own businesses. Some colleges and universities offer programmes in small business management or entrepreneurship.