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Mel's New Bakery


melmck
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That's basically what I'm saying.

I'm thinking of an instance that I've written about before, when I was first out there from culinary school.

I got a job working for this pattisserie in D.C. that was very French, very much a big deal, and run by a Frenchman who was an accomplished pastry chef, features in PA&D, etc.

He was running around with his head cut off, put a full sheet pan of napoleons out to cut, in the hot late June weather that's D.C.

He got distracted by something else that he put us on for 45 minutes or so while these napoleons got softer and sofer and then gave me a 5 space wheel cutter and told me to portion the napoleons.

So, being very green I start to cut these and they just start to crush down right away, because he took his eye off of the ball and forgot about them and they softened.

Of course, this is a catastrophe and i went home, and I called up to see when (and if) the next time he wanted me to come out and of course the answer was never.

Why try to teach some greeny how to cut a cake perfectly with a knife anyways?

When you're busy as hell?

Get a damned 8 space cake impression cutter, those round things that are more or less idiot proof and have at it?

mentoring: When I work somewhere and have the luxury of hiring an assistant I look at anytime I spend as my money being spent.

Budgets, etc.: As Wendy just said, having the talent is worthy of investing in as much as an oven or a mixer.

Hardly anybody ever thinks of it that way but it is.

Why hire 3 or 4 people who are half assed at minimum-ish wages then hire 1 or 2 at a competitive salary?

To try to find a star?

While you're killing yourself?

I'm not coming at this as some one who is NOT in the business, I've run into the same kind of stuff and still am, I'm a fellow traveler.

In places that have a lot on the line too, between national, even international food coverage, established reputations, etc.

I'm working in a place that's next door to an almost house hold name in the cooking world's now "shuttered", (that's closed to you) establishment that had all kinds of press & hype, notably a huge Food Arts feature, that just rolled up the rug a few weeks ago, Food Arts, Food & Wine, none of them are going to keep us open.

I agree about the having a laugh bit, not being all pc-ish, it's just you baker people, baker/owners really have this thing about no one understanding how it is to try to run a place with hardly any money, idiots everywhere, etc.

I understand, really I do.

Because I'm one of the idiots who HAS worked in these places, watching this whole thing go on, over & over

SethG;

I know it may seem a bit harsh, I don't know if I would feel comfortable saying anyone is a lousy mentor, if fact, I know I wouldn't.

But it's a year or more later, 426 or 7 posts down the line probably more and mel is getting more and more popular, because she must be making some great stuff.

A lot of us are pro's who have seen many scenarios and are just trying to help, believe it or not.

We all want mel to succeed, to be everything she wants to be.

But food on this level, the supply and demand, the demand for perfection, the need to be great 24/7 is almost like war.

Really.

And with it comes what is called 'The Fog of War', where the lines aren't drawn so carefully, it all gets a bit fuzzy and the margin for error gets high.

That's at least what I'm trying to point out, and I think Wendy is too.

Ted just hit on something I think if VERY important. Hiring a skilled worker right this second IS the investment you MUST take if your really serious about making it. Rarely is this done........"we can't afford it"! I personally think that's the death of most Mom & Pop bakeries.

The facts are, this is the time to put your VERY VERY BEST out there. If you blow it will kill your future business and not continue your growth and success. Your best investment isn't your equipment it's your employees using the equipment.

One professional can do the work of MANY! I'd much rather pay one professional then pay 3 completely unskilled workers. If worse came to worse I'd offer them some sort of incentive in addition to wages up front. This isn't about stretching a non-existant budget.........NO.........it's equal to making your first investment into you business. It will make or break your business and you personally!

:laugh: Edited by tan319 (log)

2317/5000

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can't seem to say a damn thing without setting off some sort of contoversy, so maybe I'll just say:

it rained today

business was good

my employee killed my 15 year old sourdough starter, I simply laughed it off ha ha no didn't bother me a bit

made some cookies

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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my employee killed my 15 year old sourdough starter, I simply laughed it off ha ha no didn't bother me a bit

What a disaster. I'm so sorry. I often wonder what pros do in regard to this risk. Do you have any dried or frozen? Every now and again I take a little bit of my starter, throw it in a baggie, date it and put it in the freezer. I must have a half-dozen in there.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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some of you need to stop being so sensitive and overly analytical about comments I make. we are all entitled to our opinion, are we not? if my blog pisses you off so much, why read it? if you don't like me, why even bother posting?

Here is a topic completely relevant to my current situation- SCRUTINY. Right now I feel like everyone in the entire world expects me to be perfect at all times. Be the perfect wife, be the perfect boss/business owner. Make perfect product. Say just the right thing. Act in just the right way. Be the perfect friend. Hire perfect people. Pay my damn bills perfectly on time. Make everyone perfectly happy in all aspects of life. hmmmmm, can I do it?

I do not have a shitty attitude about people. I am very optimistic and truly beleive anyone can do this if they want to. I do not hate people, that is just unfair. You are going to judge me based on a couple of lines of text? You don't even know me. To question whether I am mentoring perfectly, hiring perfectly, doing everything 100% efficiently, give me a break people, do you recall that I am new business owner? Ya think it all magically happens in just the right way? is that how you all do it? everyone's got a piece of advice to give, do you take your own?

Gee, hiring GOOD people, why didn't I think of that ??*smacks forehead* DUH! If there are good people to hire, I will. I pay above what most people make in this town. Beleive it or not. What do you think I am trying to do? hire the wrong people on purpose? hire inexperienced people on purpose? no, I just need some people, any people, until I find that great superstar, who I will pay as well as I can.

Ted:

"Don't you think that the main thing that keeps bringing this blog back to this subject of "what morons people are' who work in the food business is this attitude of disdain for most people?"

dude, only some people are morons, or are you just lucky to have never, ever met any? if so, WOW! because I have met a few.

disdain for most people? give me a break. a few here and there who bug me, is NOT disdain for most people.

like I said a looong way back, I am not going to sugar coat it. do you want me to say that everyone, and everything, is all peaches and cream, and never say one single negative thing? that all who cross my path are brilliant?

as far as 'investing money' into someone, where, pray tell is this money going to come from ? some magical bank account? yeah, things are getting better in sales. but that also means more expenses. and until YOU are in control of the actual money, not other people's money, or investors money, which always seems magical, tell me- where is the money?

you think I have a bad attitude? I still love it. I am positive and optimistic, always. ask my old man, he thinks it's not realistic. I am trying to make it through each day, laugh a few times. Make some good stuff that makes people happy. hopefully make a buck someday. never once have I said 'I can't do this" it's too hard etc. now that's a bad attitude...

I have to get back to work now.

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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That's why I love your blog Mel. You just tell it like it is. A lot of us enjoy and relate to it in a

big way.

Sure, people are gonna pop in and give advice, and you may see it as perhaps criticism, or

people spewing stuff without having walked first in an owner's shoes......but it's all well-meaning, I'm sure of it.

We're totally rooting for you Mel. We know how hard you're working and you're kicking some

serious butt. I, for one, am jealous a little bit......your little pastry shop is a dream of mine too.

But I know I don't have what it takes to get one off the ground. I had to honestly ask myself

if I wanted to dedicate that kind of time and risk that kind of money.....and unfortunately, for

me, the answer is "no". Perhaps earlier in my life maybe, but not now.

It's so cool to see you pursuing what you set out to do and be successful at it. You know the

next time I'm passing through Portland, I'm taking the exit to Criollo!!! :smile:

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That's why I love your blog Mel. You just tell it like it is. A lot of us enjoy and relate to it in a

big way.

I agree big time there! You remind me of the first baker I worked for when I was in high school. You say it like it is, you're honest, and I really find it refreshing and awesome.

On a side note here... I'm driving up the west coast for my honeymoon in September and will most certainly be coming by the bakery.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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I enjoy reading this blog. lots of good points made about our crazy industry. One thing for sure, if you wanna stay, grow a nice thick skin. In places i've worked if someone asked a question like "how do i crack an egg" it not only would have gotten a funny response but i feel quite certain that this employee would have been known as "egghead" from then on.

guys at one bakery thought i looked like Tom Jones, the singer. countless times i walked into the shaping room at the bakery to the singing of "Its not unusual..."

And i don't look anything like that assclown!! point being we had alot of laughs at my expense.

...and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce it tastes alot more like prunes than rhubarb does. groucho

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now that's just fucking funny... I would sing that to you too. I've got a song for everyone. Mine happens to be the best and prettiest, Sweet Melissa by the Allman Brothers. My sister got a raw deal, her name is Mandy and she's got Barry Manilow!!! haw hawwww

I get personal messages from people all the time, as well as walk in customers, that read this puppy and love it for it's raw, let-it-bleed style. Ever read Jim Carroll? Now that is RAW.makes me look like June Cleaver.

Hopefully I can share ups, and not just downs.

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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I had a reason to be in downtown Portland on Friday (down from Seattle) so we made a point of finding the shop and picking up some bread and treats to take with us. Your pastries are delicious (even the next day, re-warmed) and so is the shop. Even the puppy treats smell like tasty cookies!

Didn't see you so we asked the woman at the counter to let you know some eGs had stopped by and were passing on some best wishes. Thought you'd enjoy hearing that she told us you are the hardest working boss she has ever seen. And by the way, she was very helpful as well. Black hair, fair skin, pretty....

So keep on doing it your way, since that is you and that is what you are going to do anyway. Its working just fine.

Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther
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Yeah, I made a mistake, I inferred that you think most people are morons, which you've never done.

It was one of those "heat of the moment" typing errors that you try to catch by rereading your stuff but just pass you by.

I hope you'll accept my sincere apologies for that.

So.... I guess you didn't dig that "semi-graveyard shift" idea?

:biggrin:

T.

2317/5000

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Gee, hiring GOOD people, why didn't I think of that ??*smacks forehead*  DUH! If there are good people to hire, I will.

I remember one year when I was at Radio Shack...we needed just one decent staffer for a high-volume store. A place where everyone made decent money, within the context of that particular organization.

We began advertising in June. We had our first *decent* applicants the last week of October.

Now understand, we're not talking rocket science here. People who came into the store properly dressed, with a decent resume, and knew enough to say the right things in the interview. That's all we wanted. It took four friggin' months. Then we got two of them on the same day, and hired them both ('cause we'd figured out by then we couldn't afford not to). Both of them were managing their own Shacks within a year.

In between, we had a steady parade of absolute losers. The kid who slouched in wearing a "Kill Cops" t-shirt, no socks in his runners, and a resume handwritten in pencil on a torn piece of newsprint. The ones who looked good until the personality testing ("Everybody steals from their employer...Strongly agree. Everybody is stoned at work sometimes...Strongly agree." etc). We used to joke that it would at least be nice to get some smarter dishonest people...

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I've thought of the graveyard thing many times. Doing the laminates when it's nice and freezing in the kitchen would be ideal.

Right now, my best front person is coming in at 3AM with me to learn bread. Not for any other reason than that she wants to learn it, and her mom was a baker, but she died when she was 4 years old, so all she knows is that it runs through her blood. She picked up in two days what takes most new kids weeks. Another case of one of my fabulous employees! It is so helpful to me, because I can multi-task my butt off between 3 -6. Which I have to go do now.....

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Instead of voicing my opinion about stupid questions/employees/cutting even squares (which I do have, but will keep to myself), I have been wondering, Mel, about some of the nuts and bolts of your business. Maybe you'll share with us....

How many employees do you have, and how are they divided front and back? What are their hours? What are your busiest times (aside from xmas eve and after you get nationwide praise in magazines--congrats!!)?

In an earlier post, you mentioned that your freezer is nearly empty. How is your production set up? Do you freeze any baked product, or par-baked, or just freeze your doughs? And which ones (if you want to tell us; I find that people are a little squirrely about frozen food and automatically turn up their noses at it, when sometimes it's necessary or even preferable to not freezing)?

Good luck with your employee search. It's so frustrating and I know that stare, it's like a dead fish eye. Hopefully, the good ones will seek you out. Keep plugging away!!

Marjorie

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In between, we had a steady parade of absolute losers. The kid who slouched in wearing a "Kill Cops" t-shirt, no socks in his runners, and a resume handwritten in pencil on a torn piece of newsprint.

Hee hee! Those are the guys that get most of the barista jobs in my town.......

I find that people are a little squirrely about frozen food and automatically turn up their noses at it,

I don't know what I would do if I couldn't utilize my freezer to the fullest. That's the secret to my production actually. I'd never get anything done otherwise. I find the only people who actually turn up their noses at the thought of freezing are customers. Not that I freeze baked product.....

no, just pre-formed cinnamon rolls, cookie doughs, tart shells and the like. They would be surprised to know I pull it out of the freezer, thaw, proof and bake-off. What they don't know won't hurt them. When I talk to customers, I never mention the word "freeze". I like to maintain the illusion that everything is "right off the mixer fresh".

I know you didn't ask me personally, but I thought I'd put in my two cents. Besides, I'm off work for two weeks after having my second carpal tunnel procedure, and if I can't bake, I gotta at least yap about it. :raz:

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my hands and wrists are killing me right now, yee-ouch.

I have 9 employees- one FT dishwasher, 1 PT dishwasher. 1 FT lunch cook, 1 PT lunch cook. 2 FT counter people, 2 PT. Then there's me, my sole survivor in the kitchen, Patty, and my husband who does the afternoon bread thing.

The freezers are empty because I sell the stuff as fast as it can be made, especially on the weekend. I have done high volume production before so I know a thing , maybe two. All my items such as cinn rolls, brioche, danish & croissant are shaped and frozen. Choux also.In the AM we proof/fill/glaze etc. I have cake batter weighed into pans already so I just have to pull 'em & bake 'em. There are some cakes, like sponge, which I bake-n-freeze. But not assembled unless it is a mousse cake that can hold up well. I make big-ass batches of bar cookies, doughs are pre-scooped& frozen, pulled the night before baked fresh each AM, or throughout the day if the day demands. Have glazes, fillings, and all that jazz ready to go, still takes time to produce of course. Blow through about 5-6 Gal container of pastry cream a week. probably 30# ganache.

(by the way the newbie who coudn't cut to save her life was cutting quiche, not cake. Noooo way on that one! haven't gone quite 'round the bend...)

you are all absolutely welcome to share opinions, hey if we find out something cool from each other then that makes this whole thing work. a good idea is a good idea.like a trick that I just love, to use a big 9 " ring mold to act as walls when shaping scones, plop 3# dough in, press it out to a perfect shape, stays in perfect form, score with whatever method, and cut. freeze. love that. also the multi-wheel cutter for perfect bars...rulers, yardsticks, for precision work. anyway debates about whatever issue, regardless of whether we agree or not are still healthy, (usually) and the cool part of freedom of expression. we have the right to disagree! at least for now.....be a lot cooler if we were debating while drinking beers, or cocktails.....

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Love the freezer, may need more. right now I have a 8X6 walk-in freezer and 2 each 2 door freezers. They are packed, but I am working on re-organizing the big one with a better rack system.

Here's the latest in the finding some employees dept.-

Tuesday, a woman who said it's so hard to find work in this town, didn't show up for her trial day.

Wednesday, a woman said she'll think about it and get back to me.

I have another interview for Friday.

Maybe I should start daring people-- I double-dog dare you to come and work at my bakery!

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Here's one of my favorite hiring stories:

I was looking for a baker to do a bread/muffin/scone swing shift.

One woman came in for the interview....nice resume....showed up on time....dressed appropriately....

so I looked at her resume.....it said she'd gone to pastry school....and had done some

work at food establishments.....

Then I see her hands. She had LONG, and I mean LONG, clawlike, beautifully polished

fingernails.

I asked, "Are those real?" I was thinking they MUST be acrylics, because she had just

been "let go" from a sandwich shop, and she couldn't possibly have been allowed to

work with food with fingernails like that. My assumption was she put acrylics on in

between jobs or something.

She said, "Yep! They're all mine!"

Surprised, I said, "And they were ok with that at the sandwich shop?"

"Yeah" she said.

And I'm like....no way.

So I told her, that I liked her resume, and most of the interview, and I was going to schedule her for her audition the next night. BUT. The fingernails had be much shorter, because she was going to knead bread, I didn't believe it was sanitary, and I didn't want to risk broken nails in the bread dough either.

She protested, saying no one had a problem with it before. I told her I had a problem with it and for very good reasons. If you want this job, the nails have to go. Period.

She didn't look too happy, but agreed to come in the next night.

Apparently, she had a change of heart, because the next day, I come into my office, and there's a message on the machine from her. She sounded angry, and actually accused me of persecuting her because she was African American. She told me not to expect her that night and that she was going to report me to.........the ASPCA.

I'm pretty sure she meant the ACLU, but DAMN that was so freakin' funny! I saved that message for a long time. :laugh::laugh:

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LOL!!!! When I worked for a judge, we had a civil rights case where a prison inmate testified that a guard was upset b/c an inmate threw "piss and fetus" (meant feces) at him. I had to leave the courtroom b/c I was laughing so much, at which time a colleague said to me, "Well, I'd be upset if someone threw a fetus at me!"

My best story, not as funny, is when someone came in looking for front work and said she was a nanny. But that was too high pressure, she said, b/c she had to go to work every day, even when her daughter was sick, since her boss needed childcare every day. At a bakery, she thought things would be a lot more flexible and it would be ok if she didn't show up once ina while. She didn't get an interview.

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I do a lot of volunteer work with Amnesty International, and I just found out our annual meeting next year is in Portland! I may come by with several hundred friend for coffee and cake!

I have been reading this forum from the first posting, but never thought I would get out that far. I can't wait! It is only a year away...

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Congrats on the bakery mel, It just took me three days to finish reading this compelling story! Not all day each day, but while i was at work. I worked in bakeries for 13 years, and always wished to have my own someday. I'm waiting for my kids to move out first though, as I know it is a 24-7 job. My mom started a bakery when I was 17, and she never had a day off until she sold her half to her partner 4 years later. Of course, she really had no idea of what she was getting into. I never had carpel tunnel syndrome or any of that luckily and somehow I could will myself never to get sick during busy times. I am glad there are still bakers who care out there and not just a bunch of unskilled frozen bake-off slobs.

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17 years later I am ready to admit I worked in a bakery for 3 days.....1st day I stuck doilies to cake boards, 2nd day I dipped butter cookies in chocolate and sprinkles, 3rd day I squirted jam on linzer cookies 4th day the alarm went off at 4AM and I said hell no and rolled over......never went back for my money even....

other tasks included mold patrol on some not made daily items....eeeeew

I can now say I understand why butter cookies cost so much though :raz:

T

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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The really funny thing is that here I have it set up so that when someone posts to a thread I've started or a thread I've posted to, it's supposed to send me an e-mail. It never does. Never. Except this one. It doesn't send me all the replies, just one each day. My daily reminder. And today it's reminding me that someone ate the little marscapone lemon cheesecake I left in the fridge. I took a bite before I put it in because I couldn't wait but had to run and figured I'd eat it later. Someone snagged it. And my God, how it haunts me. I need another. Badly. Soooo creamy and smooth. Yeah....women moan at Mel's place. Needin' a fix tonight. :wub:

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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